A class for seven police officers from Mayflower that investigators believe never took place could place the Mayflower Police Chief in jail.
Billy Paul Baker, who had been suspended from his position pending the outcome of an investigation into fraudulent public records, currently has a bench warrant out for his arrest by the Faulkner County Circuit Court. Tampering with a public record is a Class D felony and is punishable by up to six years in prison.
The warrant stems from inconsistent statements Baker gave to officials from the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (CLEST) and contradicting statements made by some of the officers about a training class that may not have even happened.
The class in question is radar certification, which allows police officers to monitor roads and drivers. The evidence used from the radar gun detection is used in issuing tickets. If the class was never given and the seven officers did not officially receive certification, all speeding tickets issued since November 2011 could be contested.
"The state believes it was presented evidence sufficient to warrant probable cause that Chief Baker committed the act of tampering with a public record," said Faulkner County Prosecuting Attorney. "This is obviously a very serious matter that involves an individual in a position of public trust that our office has worked with in the past."
Hiland said that while the actions of Baker are troubling, he was quick to praise other members of the Mayflower community.
"It’s important to note that in any case like this, the alleged actions of an individual should not reflect negatively against the institution or the community he or she serves," he said.
Baker was suspended with pay during the investigation, and Sgt. Jeremy Hanson has acted as interim police chief during this time.
The investigation surfaced after a complaint was filed by one of the officers, who stated that despite being awarded a citation for radar gun certification, no class took place. The documentation sent to CLEST by Baker showed that a class was held on Nov. 28 and Nov. 29, 2011, and seven officers were in attendance. All received certifications. An investigator pulled all the certifications, spoke with two of the officers listed and found out that they did not attend a class.
Baker said he believed the class took place at Mayflower City Hall, but he said he was busy taking calls and that Officer Kyle Watkins was running the class. He later told a news outlet, "they held radar training and all but two officers on the roster attended ... although [Watkins] turned in the full roster, the problem was fixed once [he] found the mistake." The investigation showed that Watkins had not been appointed as the training officer until September 2012.
Baker himself had an instructor certification from a 2010 class in White County, but after an interview, he confirmed that he did not attend that class but had received and maintained his instructor certification.
Radio logs from Nov. 28-29 showed that three of the officers who were supposed to be in the radar class were actually working the streets along with Baker.
In October, the CLEST investigator received verification from all seven officers that none of them had attended any radar certification class. Paperwork had been filled out by Watkins and Hanson under order of Baker, including state forms that went missing with the original training file. Baker had told investigators it had disappeared.
Investigators stated in the affidavit that they believe the original records were either destroyed, removed or hidden.