FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFSM) — Interim Fort Smith Police Chief Danny Baker has been named the new Police Chief for the Fort Smith Police Department.
Following a nationwide search that was dwindled down to three candidates, City Administrator Carl E. Geffken on Friday (Sept. 27) announced Baker would take on the role.
"To be allowed to serve the Fort Smith Police Department as it’s next chief is indeed an honor and I certainly appreciate it," Baker said.
Baker has served as interim chief for the department since April following the resignation of former Chief Nathaniel Clark. Baker has been in law enforcement for 22 years and has been with the Fort Smith Police Department for 18 years.
“No one knows the challenges the Fort Smith Police Department faces more than Danny Baker does,” Geffken said. “Danny knows our department’s history and, more importantly, he has a vision for where the department needs to go in light of that history to ensure we best serve our community and all our residents. He’s well-known and respected by our Board of Directors, community and business leaders, and our regional law enforcement partners,” said Geffken. “Like the many, many officials and individuals I asked for input, the national search and interview process only confirmed that in Danny Baker we have the right person in the right job to serve our city.”
Baker says he knows the culture of the department and has a passion for this job.
"I do have a passion for this community. This is my home. This is where I’ve chosen to be and stay, so I have a very much vested interest in seeing the success of this community of this city and of its police department," Baker said.
Geffken says the city was very fortunate to have three very highly qualified candidates. He says while time and tenure is important, there were other reasons they felt Baker was the right choice.
"It’s the needs of the department, it’s understanding where the department is at this point in time and where the department and the city need to go in the future and with all of that together I felt Danny was the best candidate," Geffken said.
Baker says his first goal is to continue to stabilize the department and to get it where it needs to be in regards to the number of police officers on the streets.
He says he's excited about starting a pilot mental health crisis stabilization unit within the department.
“I am committed to this community and to the men and women of this department,” Baker said. “Our efforts toward community policing, transparency, diversity, and accountability are vital to our region’s growth and prosperity. I’m pledged to continue our progress toward becoming a world-class, 21st Century police agency.”
Baker says he is willing to face the facts once the investigation into the death of Debra Stevens is complete.
"I think there are some things we can work on in regards to how we interact with the public at certain times. We can always do better, even when we think we are doing the best we possibly can, we can still do better," Baker said.
The Fort Smith Police Department is comprised of 164 uniformed officers and 54 civilian personnel.
The city of Fort Smith also announced two new roles Friday after splitting the city’s department of development services into two separate departments.
Maggie Rice is now the new department of development services director and Jimmie Deer is the new director of the department of building services.