After months of controversy over whether the Phoenix Police Department intentionally inflated kidnapping statistics to get federal funding, the city's top cop has announced he is retiring today.
Public Safety Manager Jack Harris had come under fire because he repeatedly told City Manager David Cavazos and City Council members that the kidnapping figures had been audited, verified and thoroughly vetted -- when in fact, they had not been.
The issue: Police reported that they had 358 kidnappings in 2008, and have said that nearly all were linked to U.S.-Mexico border-related violence. The figures were also used in at least two federal grants that helped the Phoenix Police Department land $2.45 million.
Some of the police reports counted and touted as border-related kidnappings were actually carjackings or assaults. Others didn't involve any crime at all, just reports called in from residents who thought they might have witnessed a crime. Read New Times analysis of those reports.
City officials convened a panel of experts to review the statistics and make recommendation to prevent similar issues in the future.
Cavazos yanked control of the police department from Harris in March and
reassigned him to focus on homeland security issues and the security of
municipal buildings. Harris was relocated from his PD office to a spot
at Sky Harbor International Airport while his No. 2, Assistant Chief Joe Yahner,
took over day-to-day operations.
Harris has also drawn sharp
criticism -- particularly from the police union -- because when he
retired from the Phoenix Police Department in 2007, he was promptly rehired as a Public Safety Manager.
Harris has been collecting a state pension on top of a city salary of nearly $200,000 a year.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon issued a statement declaring his disappointment "about this unfitting ending to a remarkable career."
"Jack Harris, like the Phoenix Police Department, has been stained and smeared by a vocal, vindictive few in pursuit of their own political and personal gain," Gordon says. "I stand by Jack Harris today as I have every day in my time as Mayor. As the search begins to find a new leader for our police department, I know we'll be fortunate indeed to again find someone of his caliber."
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