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Chief refused polygraph to prove he wasn't lying

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The Morrow police chief refused to take a lie detector test to defend himself against claims he falsified documents, and his certification has been revoked, according to the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council.

Morrow's city manager, however, said POST's assertions aren't true. He said Chief Jeff Baker did not refuse to take a polygraph, and is still POST certified.

"You've got a one-sided argument," said John Lampl, Morrow's city manager and Baker's boss. "He has a right to make his side known, and I'm sure he'll get the chance to do that."

POST, in a statement released Monday, 10 days after the council's decision, said the chief already had his chance to explain apparently falsified documents, and a verdict has been reached.

Baker does have until Oct. 6 to appeal the revocation of his certification, but he has not yet filed an appeal, according to POST records. If he doesn't appeal, or if an appeal doesn't go his way, Baker won't have arrest powers in the state and cannot be a police chief.

The revocation of certification was decided after nine months of official inquiry. The allegations were first filed in January, when Brian Byars, a training officer for the department, said Baker signed a form as if he had attended two, regularly scheduled firearms training sessions, without actually attending either one.

"All he had to do was drive down there," Byars said. "It's arrogance and laziness. It's a requirement to qualify at the range, but he felt like he was above driving down to the range, and instead, he signed the training document."

POST investigated Byars' allegations, an investigation that included giving Byars three polygraph tests, offering to let Baker take a polygraph, and also interviewing the chief.

Byars said Baker's initial explanation was that he took the training, but did it last, after all the other officers were gone. But the story apparently didn't stand up to scrutiny. "When POST even asked him, 'Well, what firing range did you go to?' he said he couldn't remember any of the details," Byars said.

POST Spokesman Ryan Powell said the chief admitted he didn't take the training class, but denied intentionally falsifying anything. Powell said Baker's explanation for the signatures was also damning. "He said someone slapped that in front of him and he just signed it," Powell said. "He's placing the blame on somebody else, but he should have looked at it. And it's printed all in blue. It's very distinctive, at least to law enforcement, and he should have know what it was and should have known better than to sign it."

The official statement, from POST, says, "Chief Baker admitted that he did not attend the training, yet denied the falsification claim and blamed the mistake on the training Sergeant. POST offered the Chief an opportunity to take a polygraph but he refused. The Captain making the allegations was found truthful during a polygraph regarding his statements."

Lampl said the chief never refused to take a polygraph and he described the POST statement as factually wrong.

"Unequivocally, any reasonable interpretation of that conversation wouldn't have come to the conclusion that Baker refused," Lampl said.

According to the city manager, the investigation started in January and has apparently concluded, due process has not yet been done, and all the evidence has not yet been considered.

"There's more here than meets the eye," he said. "They didn't look at every piece of data out there, and I think the remaining data, when it comes forward, will speak for itself. There's some variables they're just not looking at. We're going to allow the process to continue ... allow the due diligence to take place."

Powell said that, although the chief has the right to appeal, the council has looked at the "totality of circumstances" and has concluded Baker falsified documents.

"Falsifying state documents, that bad moral conduct, is one of those things that the council doesn't take lightly," Powell said. "Everyone knows falsifying documents is serious."