University City

His job is to keep students, campus safe

Jeff Baker is a guy who lives life with gusto.

He embraces his role as the interim chief of police of UNC Charlotte as he does everything in his life, "totally."

Baker oversees the safety and security of the entire campus.

"I feel like I'm a de facto dad of 25,000 students," said Baker. "I'm very transparent and I encourage parents to call me anytime."

When talking to Baker, you understand clearly that he means what he says.

The 52-year-old former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department captain is a husband and father of two daughters. He speaks with warmth, clarity and purpose.

Since June 2010, Baker has served in his current position. In November 2009, he became the deputy chief at UNCC.

Prior to the positions at UNCC, he served 28 years with the CMPD in a variety of capacities, including patrol, undercover assignments, a detective in the Special Information Bureau and a fire arms range master.

After serving as the academy director of recruitment, Baker retired in 2008.

Six months after retiring Baker was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

His first response was to do all the research he could. He had surgery to remove the cancer and six weeks later he ran a 5K race.

Baker has always been an athlete. He even considers himself a novice surfer.

Baker said the cancer experience changed him in a lot of ways. In his case, he had no symptoms. It was the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test that saved his life. His numbers were super high.

As a result of his personal experience, Baker now volunteers through the Prostate Foundation and talks to men about prostate cancer. He also does his own social networking about the topic.

"I don't give medical advice, but I can talk about everything you need to know - from beginning to end," he said.

Although it was a setback, Baker approached that entire experience with a "can do" attitude.

"Men don't want to talk about prostate cancer and it kills 30,000 men a year," said Baker.

Born and raised in Batavia, N.Y., Baker had not set a career goal. But, he loved sports, especially football and track. At age 17, Baker said he ruined his family's Easter Sunday, when he announced he would join the Marines. A recruiter sold him on the GI Bill. After serving in the military four years, CMPD recruited him to become a police officer. He also attended Gardner Webb University and graduated with a degree in political science.

Baker is a self-described "do-it-yourselfer" who loves to work in the yard and garden.

He is also a runner who tries to stay fit.

When asked about future goals, Baker said he would accept the post permanently, if offered. He sees this as a great opportunity and recognizes its importance to the community.

"UNCC is a city within a city, with a population close to that of Monroe," said Baker.

Right now, Baker's primary goal is to keep crime to a minimum at UNCC.

"I want to ensure that the learning opportunities are robust. I'm dealing with 25,000 kids, ensuring everyone is safe and sound."