Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris Not Clear On Real Issue Involving Inaccurate Kidnapping Stats; New Times Sets the Record Straight

Let's be clear about a few things regarding Phoenix's kidnapping statistics snafu.

Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris tells the Arizona Republic that he is outraged at what is happening in the community regarding kidnappings and other crimes, and he adds:

"If anyone doubts we have a home-invasion problem in this community . . . they must have been under a rock."

The scrutiny is not because anyone doubts that border-related kidnappings and home invasions are taking place in the Valley. Not even the Phoenix Police Law Enforcement Assocation -- Harris' worst critics -- doubts that these crimes are real.

The issue is that Phoenix police officials have clearly misled the public by saying for months that 2008 statistics were valid when, in fact, they were not -- saying they reviewed the figures, when clearly, they had not.

Want proof?

On February 28, Phoenix Police Sergeant Tommy Thompson issued a statement on behalf of the Phoenix Police Department, saying it "is conducting an audit concerning kidnapping and home-invasion incidents...As a result of the audit, the department has determined that there are reports that do not belong in these statistics."

But police already had conducted an audit in August 2010 and found no problems.

On August 23, the Phoenix Police Department's Crime Analysis and Research Unit came out with a Kidnapping and Home Invasion Information statement that attempted to assuage concerns about the city's published statistics.

It offered a breakdown of the kidnapping figures, noting that they don't include "for information only" reports or domestic violence or sexually motivated kidnappings or those cases in which there wasn't enough evidence to prove that a crime even occured.   

(An in-depth review by New Times since has proved that isn't true.)
Even so, on August 25, Harris wrote a memo to City Manager David Cavazos parroting the same information provided by the Crime Analysis unit. 
In December 2010, when the feds were ready to conduct an audit of those very statistics, a note went out to all Phoenix employees stating: "This information was fully reviewed and cleared in August when similar allegations were raised by a 3rd party."

And take a look at a letter that Cavazos wrote on December 15 to the general manager of KPHO after the TV station reported that the feds were investigating Phoenix police. He wrote: "It is important to clearly state that we have verified several times the accuracy of the kidnapping statistics" and the "questions...were asked and answered in August." And, again, "kidnapping statistics...have been thoroughly vetted by the hard-working detectives."
The denial (or cover-up?) continued on January 26, when Harris told the Republic that PPD officials had "gone over [the statistics] multiple times and can back up every number with a report."

Okay. Let's take just one of the kidnapping cases that makes up the 358 cases that Harris was referring to when he told the Republic: "The bottom line is we stand by those statistics."

DR 2008-80486550.

This five-sentence departmental report from
 March 21, 2008 is labeled "Extortion." It notes an early-morning call from the Blessed Sacrament Church to Phoenix police. A priest told police he received an e-mail from someone threatening to kill him if he didn't pay $15,000. He said he had no idea who sent it. 

Cops went to the church, picked up the e-mail, and logged the incident. It makes no mention of any harm coming to the priest, or of anyone getting kidnapped. Nevertheless, it ended up on the list of kidnappings in that year. 

Another kidnapping report, DR 2008-81502660B, says says, "This report was generated in error." 

Three others on the kidnapping list: DR 2008-82013526A; DR 2008-82000249C; DR 2008-820002490. Each
 flatly states that the purpose behind creating the report is to record that a car is being impounded.
That's just a tiny sample of the types of reports that were unearthed during New Times' review (published February 7) of 264 of the 358 alleged kidnapping cases police said took place in 2008.
Despite repeated questions about the kidnapping statistics, Phoenix city and police officials at best blindly defended the numbers; at worst, they knew the figures were inflated and continued to tout them as valid. 
Harris should reevaluate who truly are the ones who "must have been under a rock."