Fort Smith's new police chief hopes his swearing-in on Friday marks an era of service.
Former interim police chief Danny Baker was sworn in Friday as chief of the Fort Smith Police Department. Baker after his swearing-in said he wants to embody a servant in his new role and create a culture of service in the Police Department through policies, procedures and day-to-day operations.
"(I want to be) somebody who puts my deeds below those of others," he said. "If I can get that idea instilled in all of my police officers, we’re going to go places."
Baker was chosen as police chief in September after serving six months as interim police chief following former chief Nathaniel Clark's departure in May. He was chosen over Little Rock Assistant Police Chief Alice Fulk and Palestine, Texas Police Chief Andy Harvey.
The fact that Baker was chosen over two candidates with more administrative experience isn't lost on him.
"If nothing else were accomplished through this process, the fact that a patrol officer was able to rise up through the ranks and become the chief of police of one of the biggest agencies in the state, and what I believe to be the best agency in the nation — that gives folks hope you can’t buy," he said.
Baker as interim police chief received praise from the public and from city directors for his response to the Arkansas River flood in May and June, which put the Police Department at 100 percent response. However, he also drew criticism for a news conference about a police dispatcher who told a woman to "shut up" before the woman drowned to death.
"He’s gone through much during his interim period, and he’s come out the other side still holding true to community-oriented policing, to wanting to serve the city of Fort Smith, and to give everything he can to the Police Department to continue 21st-century policing," said City Administrator Carl Geffken.
"I learned a lot through the process, I’ve learned a lot through the last six months as the interim," Baker said.
Baker on Friday morning said he plans to create a mental health unit within the Police Department and an intelligence unit within the Criminal Investigation Division. He also said he plans to approach the Fort Smith Board of Directors about giving his hourly employees a raise.
He also said he looks forward to seeking out the best solutions, even when he doesn't have an immediate answer to a problem.
"That’s the nice thing about having a city team around you."
Baker during his ceremony thanked the people of Fort Smith for taking a "tremendous chance" with him. He said Fort Smith police under his leadership will do its best to constantly improve.
"I’m not ashamed to say when I’ve made a mistake, or admit there’s a better way of doing things," he said. "It’s not a bad thing that we have to re-evaluate the way that we do business. Things change and progress, and I’m willing to do that. I’m excited to be a part of that process."