PHOENIX – Public Safety Manager and former chief of the Phoenix Police Department Jack Harris retired Friday morning, the mayor's office confirmed.
On March 3, Harris was removed from the day-to-day operations of the Phoenix Police Department. Assistant Chief Joe Yahner stepped up to become interim chief.
The move came amid controversy and widespread criticism over kidnapping numbers the Phoenix Police Department submitted to obtain a $ 1.7 million federal grant from the U.S. Justice Department. It has been suggested that those numbers, which were from 2008, were deliberately manipulated to make an admittedly bad problem look even worse.
There were calls for Harris' resignation almost immediately.
The day before he was reassigned, however, Harris was adamant that he would not step down.
“Anyone who wants these stars can come and get them,” a visibly angry Harris said from the scene of a home invasion on March 2. “But I’ve got news for you. I’m not giving them to you. You’re going to have to take them.
“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 ….”
Harris started his law-enforcement career as a patrol officer in the Desert Horizon precinct of the Phoenix Police Department in 1972. With stints in SWAT, Professional Standards, and North Patrol, Harris worked his way up to the top position.
When Harris retired as police chief in 2007, the city created the position of public safety manager for him. That position included direct authority over the police department, as well as security operations of the Aviation, Public Transit, and Water Services departments, and the city's Emergency Management Program and Emergency Operation Center.
"To devote 39 years to making one city safe is unprecedented today," said Mayor Phil Gordon in a statement. "So is rising from walking a beat to commanding one of the largest – and best – police forces in America.
"The City of Phoenix today is at a quarter century low in our crime rate and much of the credit for the safety of our families and our neighborhoods goes to Jack Harris and his leadership."
(Read full statement from the mayor)
"While he served as Chief and Public Safety Manager, the Police Department became recognized nationally as a leader in community-based policing," Assistant City Manager Ed Zuercher in a statement. "Crime rates are at an all-time low to a great extent because of Jack's focus on getting the worst criminals off the street."
(Read full statement from the city)
Zuercher told 3TV he spoke to Harris Friday morning. He said Harris planned to simply enjoy his retirement.
With Yahner helming the Phoenix Police Department, Zuercher there is no big rush to find a replacement for Harris.
Harris himself was not immediately available for comment. It's not clear if his decision to retire was influenced by the controversy over the kidnapping statistics.
An independent panel was commissioned to look into those problematic numbers. Zuercher said the panel expected to release its findings and recommendations next month.