Jack Harris, the career Phoenix cop whose controversial tenure as chief ended abruptly a few months ago, has been named as a surprise recipient of the national Freedom From Fear Award.
To be sure, the honor isn't one that would be doled out by the Fraternal Order of Police or the American Legion. It is awarded by the New York-based Public Interest Projects, a non-profit organization with a decided "liberal" bias.
Harris was the only law enforcement type selected by the awards committee, which considers dozens of nominees from around the nation.
Indeed, the list of winners is dominated by "activists" who have done something extraordinary for their communities.
Another winner was ASU honor student Erika Andiola, who lost her scholarships when the state of Arizona changed its eligibility laws for undocumented immigrants, and became one of the leaders of the Arizona DREAM Coalition.
Here's what the Freedom From Fear people said about former Chief Harris:
"Harris recently retired after 39 years of service. Harris spoke out at great personal and professional risk about the importance of protecting the rights and safety of everyone in the community--including immigrants. He opposed passage of AZ Senate Bill 1070 because its requirement for police to routinely enquire about the immigration status of residents, on the grounds that it would effectively end community policing, drain resources from the core mission of crime-fighting, and lead to possible racial profiling."
That sums it up.
The committee said it "recognizes that public officials and law enforcement officers sometimes incur major risks to stand with immigrant and refugees and that our society needs many more such role models."
Both personally and professionally, Jack Harris was and is the antithesis of the loudmouth down the street, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The chief's generally unpopular stance on SB 1070 and immigration issues cost him his police career (though after 39 years on the job, he was heading down the homestretch anyway).
In the end, Harris became easy pickings for the likes of a power-hungry police union, a new city manager eager to curry favor with that union, some high-ranking colleagues in his own department, and an electorate swimming with misconceptions about the realities of life.
Stop the presses! -- Jack Harris was imperfect as a police chief.
But he's essentially an honest guy, a street cop who became a police chief in one of the nation's biggest cities.
Congrats on the unlikely award.
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