Police Chief Put on Leave, Charged with DUI in Crash
By: Mary Ann Pekara
The Chief of Police of Alexandria, Va., David Baker,
has been placed on administrative leave following a car crash on Saturday night
in Arlington County, according to Allison Klein of the Washington Post. The police chief was arrested on charges of DUI.
At the time of the crash, Baker was behind the wheel of an
unmarked vehicle owned by the city of Alexandria. His blood alcohol was reportedly .19%, twice the legal
limit under state DUI laws.
City Manager James Hartmann has ordered an internal
investigation into the crash and the circumstances surrounding it, which will
be conducted by the city’s human resources department and city attorney’s
Deputy Chief Earl Cook, an officer for 30 years, has been
named acting chief.
Hartmann has the authority to fire Baker immediately, given
the circumstances, but has decided to await the internal review’s findings,
which are due within the week.
In fact, Chief Baker, 58, is not the first high-ranking
official in Alexandria to be arrested on charges of driving while
intoxicated. Rebecca Perry,
then-superintendent of schools, was arrested on similar charges in 2004. Perry was allowed to remain superintendent.
It may be difficult to reach the same conclusion in the case
of Baker. On Saturday, July 25, at
11:00pm, Baker tried to merge onto I-66 and struck another car. The driver of that vehicle was taken to the
hospital with “whiplash, neck or back pain.” She was released, and officials estimated that each car sustained $900
in damage. Baker was alone in his
vehicle and was listed as the at-fault driver in the accident.
Baker has been a police officer in Alexandria for 19 years,
with an additional 21 years of experience in the Washington D.C. police
department, where he served as the officer in charge of the traffic enforcement
William Euille, Mayor of Alexandria, says that Baker had an
exemplary record prior to Saturday’s accident.
"He’s highly respected." Euille
also says that the chief should be lead by example and be respected by the
officers that serve under him.
City officials say the chief was driving the vehicle
involved in the accident while his personal vehicle was being repaired. Baker was cooperative during his arrest and
processed as any other individual in similar circumstances would be. The chief was released on bail and is
scheduled for arraignment this week.
he is found guilty of the charges, Baker would face a minimum of five days in
his own jail according to Commonwealth law, which proscribes that minimum for
anyone found guilty of driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.15%.
The acting chief reports that Baker is "personally
devastated" by the arrest.
The city manager says he will explain his decision following
the internal investigation.
"I’ll have to justify it to my community and to everyone
else," Hartmann said.