The next Omaha police chief should be prepared to stay awhile, says the man tapped as Chief Alex Hayes' interim successor.
Deputy Police Chief David Baker will replace Hayes until a permanent successor is named, Mayor Jim Suttle announced Monday.
Omaha's next police chief will be the city's fourth in 4˝ years.
“It's important that whoever takes over is able to make a long-term commitment to the city,” said Baker, 52, who is seriously considering applying for the permanent position. “By that, I mean, barring unforeseen circumstances, five years of a commitment at this position. I think the department would benefit obviously from that kind of stability.”
Baker has applied for the city's top police job previously.
Suttle will conduct a nationwide search for the city's next police chief after Hayes retires at month's end. His replacement is scheduled to be selected by the end of June.
The last three men to hold the chief's job all turned in retirement papers before they turned 50 and will collect six-figure annual pensions for the rest of their lives.
Baker, a 23-year veteran and second-in-command of the agency, will take over as interim chief on March 31.
He is now responsible for the department's community outreach program and disciplinary standards.
Baker's appointment is a clear effort to promote continuity within police headquarters after Hayes stunned City Hall with word of his retirement plans earlier this month.
“Deputy Chief Baker has worked closely with Alex Hayes and will be able to continue practices implemented by the chief aimed at reducing crime in Omaha,” Suttle said in a statement. “As acting chief, Baker provides stability within the Police Department and for the community as a whole.”
Baker said his priorities will be to stress community policing and relationships with the community.
“My intention is to keep the department on the same path that Chief Hayes and the management team have charted over the last few years,” he said.
“I think we've been heading in the right direction to continue to nurture the relationships we have with community organizations and the citizens.”
Baker graduated at the top of his 34-member police recruit class, which the city hired on Nov. 17, 1986.
In September 1987, however, he was suspended and fired by former Chief Robert Wadman. At the time, Wadman said Baker had not met the standards set for police recruits during their standard probationary periods.
Baker sued, alleging he was fired unlawfully. He also requested to be reinstated with back pay and monetary damages. He got his job back in June 1989.
Court records showed Baker was questioned in July and August 1987 by the captain of the department's internal affairs unit about an “off-duty incident” that allegedly occurred in June of that year.
In an interview Monday with The World-Herald, Baker described the incident as a “personal issue that had to do with a custody dispute.”
Baker said the city acknowledged its error by reinstating him to his job.
“My record since then has been exemplary, and it was exemplary before that,” he said. “There were never any subsequent issues.”
A job posting for Hayes' position will be put out Tuesday. Candidates will be screened in May.
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