It is not often that an email renders UNC Charlotte Police Chief Jeffrey Baker speechless, but a recent message of congratulations from Student Government Association (SGA) president Chandler Crean left him lost for words.
Crean was writing to tell Baker he had been awarded SGA’s 2019-2020 Staff Member of the Year Award. “We wanted to say on behalf of the SGA, thank you for your continued dedication to the student body,” said Crean in the note. The award was organized by the SGA to recognize outstanding staff for the work that they have demonstrated around campus in support of students.
“I am honored to receive such an incredible award from the SGA, and this clearly is one of the most significant and important awards of my tenure,” said Baker, who is also quick to point out he shares the award with his fellow police officers.
“I would like everyone to realize the incredible dedication that our officers possess in providing safety and security on a daily basis to the UNC Charlotte community,” he said. “Our officers are some of the finest in the nation, who display the very best of themselves to our community daily -- a community I love and am committed to protecting and I know the officers are with me.”
|Chief Baker running in the annual Niner 5k.|
For almost a decade, Baker has led the UNC Charlotte Police and Public Safety (PPS) Department, a force that includes dispatchers, rangers and more than 50 sworn police officers. In that time, he has fostered success among officers by instituting rigorous leadership and development plans. Additionally, PPS has been awarded accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc. (CALEA), and they have developed a formalized focus on community policing.
Baker says community policing is especially important because of the differences between policing in higher education and local municipalities.
“Many of our calls for service are educational in nature. We are always there to provide guidance and advice to a student in need,” he said. “We are also there to just listen and be a sounding board for students that find their educational journey or personal experiences to be overwhelming. Our officers fully understand how they respond to a call may have a deep and profound impact on ensuring our students’ success.”
WIth this in mind, each officer is carefully vetted and selected based on their abilities to possess empathy, maturity and open-mindedness in addition to their capabilities to stay calm in the face of challenge and dangerous situations. They must also unequivocally understand their primary goal is to protect students, faculty and staff, according to Baker.
This was never more evident than when officers, as Baker describes it, had to display their training and their resilience in the darkest moment in the University’s history on April 30, 2019.
It was Baker’s and the department’s response on that day that inspired this year’s nomination. The nominator lauded Baker for his poise and professionalism on April 30. “During that day and in the days and weeks that followed, he continued to lead [us] while tending the needs of the University, media and members of our department for what they witnessed and how they handled themselves,” wrote his nominator. “He is truly a dedicated member of this University who will do whatever is in his power to keep this community safe."
According to John Bogdan, associate vice chancellor for Safety and Security, Baker’s dedication to protect and serve UNC Charlotte goes beyond what is obvious to an outside observer.
“There is no doubt that Chief Baker has instituted training and educational programs for our officers that save lives. We have, unfortunately, seen that in action. However, what people may not know are the ways our officers are working behind the scenes to promote safety on campus and equip our students and employees with the knowledge they need to protect themselves,” said Bogdan. “They lead active shooter response training, safety programs for Greek Life and conduct outreach campus wide on risk education. The list goes on. Jeff's dedication to Niner Nation is apparent and inspiring. I can think of no one more deserving of this award. Jeff has a heart for people and their safety. His decades of law enforcement experience drive and motivate him to continuously push UNC Charlotte officers to the next level.”
Story: NiCole Lynch
Photo Above: The annual SGA safety walk in fall 2019