Warrant Issued for Former Austin Fire Lieutenant's Arrest
James Baker allegedly videotaped female colleagues in the shower
By Nina Hernandez,
3:45PM, Thu. Nov. 16, 2017
An arrest warrant’s out for former firefighter James Baker, who stands accused of invasive video recording, a state jail felony punishable by between 180 days and two years in jail, or a fine of $10,000. Police say Baker, an AFD lieutenant for 31 years before retiring in September, set up a camera inside of a women’s locker room to spy on co-workers.
The events detailed in Baker’s arrest warrant and affidavit, signed Wednesday, Nov. 15, by Municipal Court Magistrate Judge Erik Cary, allegedly took place on Sept. 4. A firefighter told investigators she was on her way into the women’s locker room at the Central Fire Station on East Fifth Street when she saw Baker leaving the facility. Later, upon leaving the shower, she noticed “an unusual, small blue light illuminating” across the room. It turned out to be a hidden camera.
Baker apparently contacted the colleague a few hours after she left the shower, asking to have a “private conversation.” She said Baker admitted to installing the camera, and tried to bargain for it back – even offering to retire or transfer to another fire department. Instead, she took it to APD.
On Sept. 18, that department’s Digital Analysis Response Team carried out a search warrant on the camera. According to Wednesday’s affidavit, Baker soon after admitted to police that he had set up the recording equipment without the consent of the victim. “Baker further stated that he was curious to see what the victim did while she was in the locker room,” reads the document. He also admitted that he’d put a camera in the locker room on another occasion prior to Sept. 4.
AFD Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr remains tight-lipped about the situation, only noting through a spokesperson on Thursday that Baker retired on Sept. 6, two days after the incident in question. “The alleged actions he has been accused of are not indicative of the incredible men and women of the Austin Fire Department,” Kerr said in a statement, "and certainly not a fair representation of all they do to serve our community every day.”
Baker has yet to turn himself in to police.