Jeff Baker stepped down as Morrow’s police chief late Thursday afternoon, half a week before he was scheduled to meet with the town’s city manager, to possibly receive a termination notice, following his recent DUI arrest in the city.
Morrow City Manager Jeff Eady said Baker e-mailed his resignation letter to him, and is expected to deliver a printed version of the letter to Morrow City Hall on Friday. Eady, who recently completed an investigation into the former police chief’s Nov. 16 DUI arrest, said his findings were leading toward him firing Baker, but Thursday’s events negated that move.
Baker was arrested by Clayton County police last month, after he was allegedly found asleep at the steering wheel of his city-owned vehicle, at an intersection in the Morrow city limits, with several open containers of alcohol in the vehicle. He was found by one of his own officers.
“He did the right thing,” Eady said. “He gave an unconditional resignation and will step down right away.”
The city manager added that the city is already finalizing a job description, to find Baker’s replacement. The job will be advertised online, on several web sites, and law enforcement officials, both inside, and outside the city, will be able to apply for the position, Eady said.
He added that Morrow Police Capt. Greg Tatroe, who has been the department’s acting chief since Baker was placed on “administrative leave” last month, will continue in that role.
If Baker, 43, who had been Morrow’s police chief since February 2006, had not resigned, he would have had to answer to Eady next Tuesday, concerning a long list of violations of city policies related to his DUI arrest. He had worked for the Morrow Police Department since September 2005, when he arrived as a captain over the Uniform Patrol Division.
The city manager said some of the policy violations, which he discovered during his investigation, include: Having alcohol in a city-owned vehicle, using a city-owned vehicle for personal use, not following commands from a law enforcement officer, and “Discredit to the city.”
Baker could not be reached Thursday night for comment.
The police report from Baker’s arrest shows that a Morrow police officer found that Baker’s eyes were red and glassy, his speech was slurred, and the smell of alcohol was present when the officer approached the now-former chief’s vehicle.
When Baker woke up, he allegedly put his car in reserve and sped off to the Morrow Police Department headquarters, eventhough the Morrow police officer had asked him to pull the vehicle off to the side of the road.
“You never want to hear that something like this has happened, but unfortunately, it has happened, and now it’s been dealt with,” Eady said. On Wednesday, the city manager dropped Baker’s status from “administrative leave with pay,” to “administrative leave without pay,” after the former police chief rescheduled a meeting he was to have with Eady, citing personal reasons.
Baker’s mother died recently — just two days after his arrest, the city manager explained to a reporter last week.
Eady said the former police chief praised his officers, in his resignation letter. “He said he was grateful to the city for giving him an opportunity to serve as police chief, and was happy to lead a group of men and women who serve the citizens as professional law enforcement officers,” he said.
The resignation closes the issue for the city, according to Eady, although Baker still faces several criminal charges related to his arrest. The former police chief has been charged with DUI, running a red light, impeding traffic, open container, driving too fast for conditions, improper lane change and failure to obey a person directing traffic.
A Clayton County Magistrate Court judge has bound the charges over to Clayton County State Court, according to online court records. Clayton County Solicitor General Tasha Mosley said earlier this week that she is gathering evidence to build a case, indicating that she could formally file accusations against the former police chief, in State Court, as soon as January.
Baker has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience, including stints with the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office, Rockdale County Juvenile Court, and the Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office.
He came under fire in 2008, however, when the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Council investigated, then accused him of falsifying firearm training documents. He was also cited when he refused to take a polygraph test about whether he actually participated in the training.
“Jeff is a bright guy, but he made a mistake, and he knows he made a mistake,” Eady said. “I am confident he will be able to find a job somewhere in the future.”