Phoenix police Chief Jack Harris (yeah, we're still callin' him "chief" until he takes off the uniform) insisted this afternoon that the Phoenix Police Department is not a "corrupt organization," as he explained the department's role in the investigation of three Phoenix police officers -- and one former officer -- indicted for fraud.
In total, 25 officers within the department were investigated by the Attorney General's Office for what basically boils down to a time-theft scam. The scam cost several businesses that hired off-duty Phoenix police officers to act as security guards about $16,000. Included in those investigated by the AG's Office are the department's killer cop, Richard Chrisman, and Sergeant Sean Drenth, who was mysteriously found shot to death near the State Capitol last month.
Skeptics suggest Drenth's death might have something to with this investigation, but Harris claims to have no knowledge of any connection. However, he did say the detectives investigating Drenth's death are aware of the fraud investigation.
As for his role in the scam, Harris says, if Drenth were still alive, he probably would face felony theft charges.
According to Harris, officers do about $30 million worth of off-duty work a year at various events around the community. He says the department's off-duty work program will continue, but will be reviewed by the city auditor.
The 25 officers investigated by the AG's Office who weren't indicted have been suspended from off-duty work, Harris says, and their cases will be turned over to the professional standards bureau, which will determine any further disciplinary action.
The fraud indictments are just the latest in a series of problems plaguing the Phoenix Police Department. Each of these seem to come from one place: the South Mountain Precinct, which was home to Chrisman, Drenth, and the majority of the officers investigated by the AG's Office.
Harris recently made several leadership changes at the precinct to try to clean up what is perceived to be the city's most corrupt precinct.
But Harris says the problems are "misconduct," not corruption.
"Painting the Phoenix Police Department as a corrupt organization because of this investigation is unfair," he says.
Although, he says, "This is not what we expect from the Phoenix Police Department."
This may not be what we expect from the Phoenix Police Department as a whole, but this is exactly what we've come to expect from the South Mountain Precinct lately.
Below are photos of the three current officers indicted for theft, Benjamin Sywarungsymun, er Steven Peck, and Aaron Lentz.