City manager announces new police chief pending audit

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by Natalie Rivers

azfamily.com

Posted on March 3, 2011 at 3:05 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 3 at 9:12 PM

PHOENIX - At a press conference Thursday afternoon the Phoenix city manager announced the reorganization of duties within the police department.

The new head of the Phoenix Police Department is acting Chief Joe Yahner.

Public Safety Manager Jack Harris, former head of day-to-day operations of the department, has not been fired but will be given other unspecified duties.

City Manager David Cavazos said no one has been fired, just duties have been reassigned as they look at ways to better serve the public.

An independent outside audit will be conducted to review the kidnapping numbers that are at the heart of the controversy.

The controversy stems from allegations that the Phoenix Police Department misrepresented the number of kidnappings in the city. The department received $1.7 million in federal grant money to deal with the problem.

The Office of the Inspector General launched an audit in December to try and determine if the department deserved that money.

Initially, the department reported more than 350 kidnappings in 2008. Based on that number, the department and many politicians labeled Phoenix as the “kidnapping capital of America.”

Supposedly, Mexico City was the only city in the entire world that had more kidnappings. Now the Phoenix Police Department is saying some of the reports, as many as 100, included in that initial number should not have been counted.

Harris and Yahner were not allowed to take any questions at Thursday's press conference. Cavazos said he has asked Harris to not speak to the media anymore.

On Wednesday Harris addressed the media and said he was not stepping down.

“I’ve been accused of doing something wrong because I went to the federal government and said, ‘Give me money to help me protect this community and to protect my officers.’ … If I did something wrong by doing that, stand by, because I’m going to do it again and again and again as long as I’m wearing this uniform,” he said.

Cavazos said they will wait until the audit is done before making any firings. The audit is expected to take about 60 days.

The city has not spent any of the grant money awarded to them as they were waiting the federal government's audit.

"This review needs to be done entirely by an outside agency and not led, staffed or appointed by the city, whose own policies, procedures and behavior is what is being investigated. Having internal people involved always raises credibility questions," Councilman Sal DiCiccio said.

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