By Robin Alberti
A large crowd of representatives, colleagues and community supporters gathered to say farewell to Police Chief Baker at the Howe Center in Rutland on Tuesday, Dec. 30. It was a send off party for Baker, who has accepted a job as Director of Law Enforcement and Support for the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Washington, D.C.
Prior to becoming Rutland’s Chief of Police, Baker headed the state police and served as director for the Vermont Police Academy. He entered his post in Rutland at a time when the police force was receiving a lot of criticism — and as crime and the drug epidemic was on the rise. It was not an easy position to step into, but he did an admirable job according to nearly all accounts. Folks that gathered to honor him shared many anecdotal stories of the great strides in Rutland during Baker’s tenure.
Through his work as chief of police, Baker has also done much to improve the perception of the city police helping residents once again feel confident that the police are committed to making it a safer place for all its citizens.
Vermont’s Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott spoke on Chief Baker’s role in working with state officials to help fight the war on drug addiction and the subsequent crime that comes along with it. Keith Tallon from the Department of Corrections expressed his appreciation for how the chief has worked with the DOC to try and reduce the number of repeat offenders and get folks the appropriate help they need, so the corrections department does not become a revolving door.
Joe Kraus, the director of Project VISION, expressed how the program is grateful to have had a chief of police so dedicated to the health and welfare of its citizens.
Rutland City Mayor Christopher Louras shared his experiences working with Chief Baker, bringing smiles to many faces and even eliciting a few laughs from the crowd. He expressed a somber gratitude for all that the chief has accomplished and the ground work he laid for his processor.
When it was his turn to address the crowd, Chief Baker started off by saying that when he entered the room, he was “truly humbled” to see the crowd that had gathered to honor him.
As is common, the chief started by reminding those in attendance that “This is not about me.”
Baker shared his grandmother’s advice: “When meeting people, take everyone where they are at, and for who they are.” His parents added another lesson to live by: “Never ask for more than you give back.”
There were tears and there was laughter as Chief Baker shared his thoughts on his time as Rutland City chief of police. He spoke about an event in September of 2012 that had a huge impact on the Rutland community, the tragic death of high school student and golf standout Carly Ferro. He had Carly’s mom, Ellen Miller, join him at the podium when he spoke of this event. Carly Ferro was killed as the result of a drugged driver, allegedly high from inhalants, striking parked cars on Cleveland Ave and pinning her in between vehicles as she was leaving a store to meet her father after work. Baker called this “a tipping point in our community.” It made Rutland take a hard look at its crime and drug problem and re-invigorated the law enforcement community to step up their enforcement on such issues. He pleaded to folks to never forget Carly’s death and to use it as motivation to keep Rutland going in the right direction. In her honor, “we cannot let Rutland go backwards,” Baker said. Crime and drugs are a whole community issue, and as the old saying goes, “it takes a village,” he added.
He ended by addressing the police force he was honored to serve during his time as chief of police.
Rutland is surely a better place having had James Baker at the helm for the past few years, and it is Washington D.C.’s gain to welcome such an honorable man as their new Director of Law Enforcement and Support for the International Association of Chiefs of Police.