PHOENIX – Speaking from the scene of an early morning home invasion in West Phoenix, Police Chief Jack Harris said he will not be stepping down amid controversy over his department’s reported kidnapping statistics for 2008.
“Anyone who wants these stars can come and get them,” a visibly angry Harris said. “But I’ve got news for you. I’m not giving them to you. You’re going to have to take them.
“I am absolutely outraged by what is happening in this community, by some people with a political agenda who are trying to convince the community that incidents like this [home invasion] aren’t happening.”
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.
“If there is anybody in this community who does not believe that we have a kidnapping/home invasion problem in this community, they either just got off the bus today or they’ve been living under a rock in this community for the last several years,” Harris said.
“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 ….”
In the wake of the revelation that the initially reported number of kidnappings was incorrect, some have been calling for Harris’ resignation. The police chief says they are not going to get it.
“I am not stepping down,” he said. “I am not voluntarily giving up my job.”
In an e-mail sent to city managers Tuesday, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association reportedly requested an independent investigation into the Phoenix Police Department’s management.
The e-mail alleges misconduct, saying, “The kidnapping statistics were manipulated and flawed in order to obtain federal monies.”
There has been talk that Harris, who also holds the title Public Safety Director, could be moved from the Phoenix Police Department to City Hall. Such a move could spark another issue in terms of his pension and recent talk regarding “double dipping.” A public watch group called Judicial Watch sued Harris in late 2009 for douple dipping, which is collecting both pension benefits and a yearly salary.
It’s not yet known if or when any action against Harris might be taken.