Officers in the Kentucky State University police department would have lost $3,100 in annual pay if officials hadn’t terminated Belinda Baker’s employment.
KSU jeopardized its participation in the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program Fund by appointing Baker as interim director of University Safety and Security Affairs, according to correspondence obtained by The State Journal.
A letter to KSU President Mary Sias dated March 14 said Baker is not authorized to act as a police officer in Kentucky — “not authorized” was underlined in the letter.
“I must also advise you that in the event the University chooses to continue to allow Ms. Baker to act as chief of police, additional steps will be taken to remove the KSU Police Department from the KLEFP fund,” Dana Todd, legal counsel to the Department of Criminal Justice Training and the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council, wrote in the letter.
The fund pays each officer a $3,100 stipend per year so long as the department remains compliant with Peace Officer Professional Standards.
State law outlines 17 minimum requirements to be a certified police officer in Kentucky.
Some are minor, like being a U.S. citizen and possessing a valid driver’s license. Others require testing of agility and psychological suitability. To be certified in Kentucky, an officer must also not have had certification permanently revoked in another state.
Even after the minimum requirements are met, an officer has no authority or power to act as a police officer in Kentucky until KLEC has verified the certification.
“Ms. Baker has been contacted previously by KLEC to request her immediate submission of documentation to demonstrate her credentials and she has been advised by KLEC Executive
Director Larry D. Ball that she does not have law enforcement authority within the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Todd wrote in the letter.
“Please accept this letter as a formal notice to you that Ms. Baker has not submitted any of the requested documentation to KLEC to date.”
Baker was originally offered the position of acting chief of police, which requires candidates to be certified law enforcement officers in Kentucky. But her offer was later amended to the position of interim director of University Safety and Security Affairs, which required only the eligibility to become certified.
“Regardless of her announced job title, Ms. Baker is in fact presently acting as the Chief of the University’s police department,” Todd wrote in the letter.
An investigation by DOCJT and KLEC revealed Baker was assigned an unmarked police vehicle equipped with blue emergency lights — a vehicle that, by law, may only be operated by a certified police officer.
In her response to Todd’s letter, Sias said she was not aware of Baker’s lack of certification.
“Please be assured that KSU seeks to remain eligible for participation in the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program Fund (KLEFPF) and to comply with all KLEC requirements pertaining to police officer certification,” Sias wrote in the letter.
“The stipend support that KLEFPF affords our officers is critical and we are fortunate to have access to this resource.”
Baker was terminated March 31, according to a document obtained by The State Journal.
Todd also admonished Sias for not informing KLEC within five days that former chief Stephanie Bastin had been fired and replaced by Baker.
In a letter dated March 26, Sias assured Todd the university would comply with notification law.
She also noted Barbara Hayes was named acting director of University Safety and Security Affairs, effective March 28. Assistant Chief Tiua Chilton assumed the role of acting director Monday when she returned from a leave of absence.
The situation at KSU was not Baker’s first brush with certification issues. A lawsuit was filed at Delaware State University, where Baker has returned to serve as deputy chief of police.
According to the lawsuit, filed in 2011 by former DSU police officer Stephanie Smith against the university, tension was high in the police department when Baker was issued a handgun despite lacking proper certification.
“Although Baker was hired in the summer of 2006, she was not certified as a police officer under the Delaware Council of Police Training program until April 2009,” according to the court file.
“Under COPT regulations, a person must be certified before carrying a firearm and wearing a badge as a police officer.”
On Oct. 26, 2006, Baker’s supervisor, Department of Public Safety Chief James Overton, issued her a handgun to qualify at the shooting range.
“Smith complained to Overton, and then to COPT administrator Major Harry Downes, that Baker had been permitted to carry a firearm without first receiving the necessary COPT certification,” according to the file.
The role of director of University Safety and Security Affairs has been posted to a job site, although it only requires applicants to be eligible to become a State of Kentucky Certified Law Enforcement Officer.