Alexandria Chief of Police David P. Baker Tuesday notified city leadership and the police department of his decision to resign as the citys top law enforcement official.
Bakers decision to retire came three days after he had been arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol after colliding with a Ford Escape while trying to merge onto Interstate 66 from North Fairfax Drive in Arlington.
Baker, who is scheduled to appear in court for an arraignment August 14, struck the other vehicle just before 10 p.m. Saturday night with a city-owned Ford Explorer that he had been driving while on vacation.
It is with a great deal of humility and remorse that I announce my retirement from the Alexandria Police Department, effective immediately, Baker wrote in a letter to Alexandria police.
In light of the resignation, Earl Cook, currently the acting chief of police and formerly Bakers top deputy, will remain in charge of the department for the indefinite future, Alexandria City Manager James Hartmann announced at a press conference Tuesday at City Hall.
On Sunday, less than 12 hours after getting word of Bakers drunk driving arrest, Hartmann announced that the city would conduct an internal investigation into the accident in which Baker had been driving an unmarked city vehicle.
Hartmann had planned to reach a decision on Bakers future as a city employee by the end of the week, but according to City Attorney James L. Banks, the citys internal investigation has been terminated due to Bakers resignation.
Bakers decision to resign and retire by his own conclusion negated the need for an internal investigation by the city, Hartmann said.
With a panoply of options available to Hartmann, from firing Baker to reinstating him, Bakers resignation made any further action moot, Banks said.
We looked at as many of the facts as we could, Banks said, adding that Baker tendered his resignation Tuesday before city officials involved in the investigation had planned to meet with the former chief.
Certainly being intoxicated and driving a city vehicle is a terminable offense, one of our more major offenses in the city, Hartmann said.
City officials have not determined the process for securing a long-term successor for Baker but Hartmann said that will be tended to over the next few weeks.
Mayor Bill Euille said Bakers remorseful letter to colleagues in the police department showed Alexandrians that the Chief realizes folks look at him in a different light here in the city and he felt very bad about an embarrassing situation.
The other driver, who Arlington police would identify only as a female, was taken to the hospital for minor pain, where she was treated and released.
After failing four field sobriety tests, Arlington police arrested Baker, according to the criminal complaint. Upon being booked in the Arlington jail Sunday just after midnight, Baker recorded a blood alcohol content of 0.19, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.
When questioned by a police officer at the accident site, Baker said he drank two beers 20 minutes before the accident and also advised the officer that he had not consumed any alcohol since the accident occurred.
Typically, a blood alcohol level of 0.19 in a man the size of Baker, who is 6-foot-1 and roughly 210 pounds according to the complaint, would equate to about 10 drinks over the course of an hour or more, spread out over a longer period of time, according to a Virginia Tech website advising students on alcohols effects.
The issue is that it can be different for everyone, said Detective Crystal Nosal of the Arlington Police Department. It all deals with how your body metabolizes alcohol some people who have been drinkers all of their life can reach a high BAC and still function to where you would not have any idea that they were drunk.
Theres no way of really knowing how many drinks that was for Chief Baker, Nosal said.
City officials have said that they do not know where Baker had allegedly been drinking prior to Saturdays accident and, through Tuesday, Arlington police have not released any information to that end.
Bakers arrest and the implications of his recorded BAC came as a surprise to Cook, who has known Baker for many years and worked closely with him during the last three. The two competed for the departments top position in 2006, with Baker getting the job.
Bakers criminal record has been clean for the 39-year period in which he has been a police officer in Alexandria and the District, authorities said.
Ive never seen him inebriated, period, Cook said. The most Ive seen him drink in my 19 years [knowing him], in a social occasion, was perhaps a single glass of wine, so hence the surprise when we thought, How could this be?
Now, after what city leaders called an unfortunate incident, Baker faces a mandatory five days in jail, a $250 fine and can have his license revoked for a year if he is found guilty.
Even though he is a resident of Gaithersburg, Md., Bakers license can be suspended for a Virginia conviction as per the Drivers License Compact, according to Buell Young of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.
Baker was unavailable for comment, but his attorney, James Clark, said that no decision has been made on whether his client will plead guilty or not guilty.
Were simply marching the path and exploring our options, Clark said Wednesday.
Since the arrest, Cook said that in conversations with Baker, the former chief had expressed concern for the police department at the start of each conversation.
Despite Bakers own concerns, Cook said the former chiefs arrest led to some anxious days within the department.
Of course theres tension because when the agency is under scrutiny and its not something positive, thats a tension on the agency itself, Cook said. It was coupled with the fact that he was a popular chief and people wondered what was going to happen.
As head of the citys top law enforcement office, the nature of Bakers arrest conflicted with the nature of his job to maintain public safety, which never seemed to be in question prior to Saturday night.
The reaction that people may be seeing is the human reaction about a friend and a popular chief, not about the business side of if you ever should condone drinking and driving, Cook said.
Of course I was very surprised, very saddened, very disappointed, Hartmann said. I held the chief in utmost respec. He was a fine police officer and police chief and it will probably make this a little harder for me.
The former chief is due the same benefits as any other retiring city employee with more than 19 years of service, according to city officials. Before joining the Alexandria Police Department, he had spent 21 years as a policeman in Washington.
During Bakers tenure as chief of police, the overall change in crime has been nominal, however since 2006 the city has seen a drop in the number of robberies and aggravated assaults, according to crime statistics.