Morrow Police Chief Jeff Baker likely to lose license for test refusal

Morrow Police Chief Jeff Baker will likely lose his driving privileges, for at least a year, for refusing to submit to the state-administered chemical test for blood alcohol content, said Clayton County prosecutors.

Baker, 43, was arrested late Wednesday night and charged with driving under the influence. According to the arrest report, he refused to submit to the test as outlined in the implied consent card read to him.

Clayton County Solicitor General Tasha Mosley said the refusal constitutes the loss of his license. "The implied consent reads that the license 'will' be suspended for a minimum of one year for refusing to take the state-administered chemical test," said Mosley. "So right now, he can't drive. He does have a right to an administrative hearing before a judge."

He 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, all misdemeanors that will be heard in State Court. He is out on bond.

However, Mosley and Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson are researching the facts of the case to see if the addition of the felony charge of violation of the oath of office by a public officer, also is warranted.

“We are in consultation in reference to the prosecution in this case, and are discussing the possible violation of the oath of office,” said Lawson.

Conviction of that crime carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

The arrest report details the events leading up to Baker's arrest Thursday night. One of his officers, Sgt. B. Smith, observed a 2008 Dodge sitting at a red light at Ga. 54 and Southlake Parkway, just before 9 p.m. The car failed to move when the light turned green, so Smith initiated a traffic stop.

Smith said Baker was asleep at the wheel, and woke up when Smith activated his overhead lights, giving Smith a “thumbs-up” gesture.

Smith told Baker to pull off the roadway, so he could check to see that he was OK to drive. Baker was driving a city-owned car with an ice chest with beer in the back seat, according to the arrest report.

"I will get right on it, buddy," Baker reportedly told Smith, but did not move his car. Smith told Baker to put his car in park, but Baker reversed his car and drove around the patrol car onto Ga. 54. Smith followed Baker and saw him crossing over the lane divider lines, and jerk back into his lane. Smith said Baker was driving faster than the posted 40 mph on South Lee Street toward the police department.

Baker pulled into his parking space at the police department and went inside, said Smith.

Baker was not charged with fleeing and attempting to elude an officer, but that charge could be added, said Mosley.

"As soon as an officer tells you to stay still, and you leave the scene, you can be charged with fleeing and attempting to elude an officer," she said. "He wasn't charged with that, but he could be. We're going to see what we have, and don't have, and see what other charges should be added."

Mosley said her investigators scrambled Thursday to make sure evidence in the case against Baker was secured. "Morrow has been more than cooperative," she said Friday morning.

The Clayton County Police Department is assisting Morrow police in the investigation of Baker. Morrow city officials said Thursday they are conducting a separate investigation to determine if Baker violated personnel or departmental policies. Baker is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Baker came under fire in 2008 when he was investigated by the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council. He was accused of falsifying firearm training documents by signing his name to a roster for a class he did not attend. He was also cited for refusing to take a polygraph test about the training.

Baker joined the Morrow department in September 2005 as captain over the Uniform Patrol Division. He was sworn in as chief in February 2006. According to the city’s web site, he has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience, including as SWAT Team commander. He previously was a supervisor with the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office in the Uniform Patrol Division, COPS Division, and was commander of the Narcotics and Vice Unit.