While a federal audit of the Phoenix Police Department's kidnapping statistics is under way, Police Chief Jack Harris has ordered his troops not to spend any of the $700,000 they collected from the feds to combat border-related kidnapping cases.
The Department of Justice's Office of Inspector General reportedly is looking into allegations that Phoenix police inflated its kidnapping count in 2008 to get federal funding.
Is Harris concerned that the feds are going to want their money back?
Phoenix Police Sergeant Tommy Thompson, who is handling questions about the city's kidnapping statistics, was not available for comment.
Phoenix officials reported that there were 358 kidnappings during 2008 in Phoenix. Harris and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon testified in 2009 before Congressional committees, both saying that border-related kidnappings made up a majority of those 358 cases and pressing the feds for money to combat kidnappings.
The same figure (358 kidnappings in 2008) was used two federal grant applications that snagged the city $2.45 million. One of them was the $700,000 "Project Eagle Eye" grant.
Harris' edict not to touch the "Project Eagle Eye" money came through a January 28 e-mail from Phoenix Police Commander Brent Vermeer.
Vermeer wrote that "Chief Harris has requested we retrain from spending ANY of the Project Eagle Eye money at this time. I have pulled back all of the purchase requests we had in motion to buy new equipment."
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The e-mail did not make reference to "Operation Home Defense," a $1.7 million grant -- which also included the faulty kidnapping statistics -- aimed at combating border-related violence.
Harris and City Manager David Cavazos defended the veracity of Phoenix's kidnapping statistics when questions were raised by the Phoenix police union.
However, a New Times analysis of 264 out of the 358 "kidnapping" reports revealed that only one of out every four kidnapping reports were actually connected to border-related crimes. And some of the reports weren't tied to kidnapping cases at all.
Border-related kidnapping cases in Phoenix are very real, and very expensive because they require a lot manpower and can go on for weeks. But the figures that Phoenix released just don't add up. Click here to read "Kidnapping Capital."