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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI appoints former Westerly chief to leadership post with URI police

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 15, 2005 -- As one of many steps being taken to upgrade and strengthen the University of Rhode Island’s police department, the University has named the former Westerly chief of police to be the department’s first major.

Westerly resident Stephen Baker, 50, who was that town’s police chief for two years, began his URI duties on Monday, March 7. He comes to URI after a 26-year career with the Westerly Police Department.

The search began in August and wound up with finalists’ interviews in February. There were 26 candidates.

Baker will report to URI Director of Public Safety Robert Drapeau, who has overall responsibility for campus police, security, parking services, communications and technological development related to campus safety and security issues. Baker is now the highest-ranking uniformed officer in the 24-member police department.

Drapeau said the plan is to have a specific day-to-day supervisor for each public safety unit, so he can focus on overall administrative and coordination issues, including planning and implementation.

Baker left Westerly because retirement is mandatory for police officers there after 25 years. “When I left town service, I was still interested in law enforcement because it was my career, something I am passionate about.”

He said another police chief made him aware of the University’s search, which began in August.

“I felt this was something I would enjoy doing and be comfortable in,” Baker said. “It was a good fit.”

Baker said he was also impressed that many members of the police force were involved in the search process, which was chaired by J. Vernon Wyman, assistant vice president for business services. “My initial impression was that this group was very interested in becoming more professional.”

Drapeau said the quality of the candidates was exceptional. Baker has the right skills and attitude to be successful in our campus community. We look forward to having his fresh eyes as the URI Police Department moves to greater professionalism and accountability.”

Baker, who was born in Wakefield and raised in Charlestown, is a 1979 graduate of the Rhode Island Municipal Police Academy, which at the time was headquartered at URI. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in administration of justice, both from Salve Regina University.

Baker said while the URI community that he will now be policing differs from a municipality, some basic principles still apply. “Police work always involves connecting with the community, whether that community is a city or a college campus. It’s about getting to know people. I am looking forward to working with the men and women of the police force in their efforts to becoming the best professionals they can be.”

Photo caption-
FIRST DAY ON THE JOB: Stephen Baker, 50, former Westerly police chief, begins his duties as URI’s first police major. URI News Bureau photo by Michael Salerno photography.