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Des Moines hires Anaheim police chief

By ELIZABETH CIEPIELA

Staff writer

Des Moines’ new chief of police will have to acclimate himself to overcast skies, a waterfront city and a police department almost 10 times smaller than the one he has supervised for the last five years.

After a three-month search, Anaheim Police Chief Roger Baker has been tapped by city manager Tony Piasecki to be Des Moines’ new chief.

In Anaheim — a major tourist city with over 300,000 residents –– Baker was chief to over 400 police officers. In contrast, the Des Moines Police Department has 43 police officers and almost 30,000 residents.

Piasecki said Baker has a stellar record from his experience in Anaheim, with no complaints.

“He is an extremely impressive gentleman,” Piasecki said. “I felt he would be able to provide a strong level of leadership into the department.”

The search for a new chief began June 15, when former chief Don Obermiller retired.

Originally, 53 people applied for the position. The list was whittled down to six finalists, each of whom underwent a criminal and financial background check. In addition, each finalist passed a psychological test and and talked with a psychologist for one hour.

Piasecki next narrowed the six to the final two candidates — Baker and Alex Perez, a police lieutenant in Inglewood, Calif. Piasecki said both had the qualities he sought — a broad range of extensive law enforcement experience as well as broad experience, and excellent interpersonal communication skills.

Baker and Perez have both been beat cops, sergeants and detectives, among other police roles. Through interviews with co-workers, Piasecki discovered the are personable leaders who communicate well with a diverse cross section of citizens, he said.

“These are people who are approachable, who are problem-solvers, who truly care about what they’re doing,” Piasecki said. “What put it over the top for Baker was that he had a few more years of experience.”

Baker has more than 29 years of experience in law enforcement, while Perez has over 26.

Piasecki and Seattle-based executive search firm Waldron & Company interviewed Baker’s peers, neighbors and friends. They pored through personnel files. They interviewed two Anaheim City Council members, the city manager and the police union chief, among others.

Piasecki said the Des Moines Police Guild called their counterparts in Anaheim and Inglewood. They asked the other police officers, “‘What do you know about these guys?’” Piasecki said.

The result: No rumors of financial or personal improprieties or criminal behavior.

Baker served as police chief in Anaheim for five years. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and holds several professional certifications. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree. He has a wife and several grown children.

Piasecki anticipates Baker’s new job will be well over the traditional 40-hour week. Baker will be on call 24 hours a day.

His starting salary is $100,848. Within a year, he is eligible for a 5 percent raise. The contract is open-ended, but Waldron & Company guaranteed Baker will stay for at least a year.

Staff writer Elizabeth Ciepiela: 925-5565, eciepiela@fedwaymirror.com

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