Investigation continues into flawed Phoenix kidnapping statistics

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PHOENIX – A Phoenix police sergeant Monday accused top city officials of covering up problems with the city's kidnapping statistics.

The flawed numbers earned Phoenix the nickname "Kidnapping Capital" and were used to secure millions of dollars in federal funds to help fight crime.

Sgt. Phil Roberts made the allegations in front of an independent panel of law enforcement experts investigating the matter. Roberts said he first warned top police officials about the problem in 2009, but his concerns were ignored.

"Police officials made numerous statements avowing the numbers were correct, when we all knew they were not," Roberts told the panel of investigators. "Whether this occurred maliciously or with intent, I cannot say."

Assistant Police Chief Andy Anderson also testified in front of the panel at Phoenix City Hall Monday afternoon and defended his department against Roberts' claims.

"[Police Chief Jack] Harris, the mayor and top staff are being accused of intentionally inflating kidnapping statistics. That did not happen," Anderson said.

He blamed the problems on a few factors, including computer problems, detective mistakes, and confusion over the case management system. Anderson insisted none of the kidnapping numbers were falsified on purpose.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon echoed Anderson's statements. Gordon considers Roberts a "problem officer" who is upset because he was passed over for a promotion. Gordon also called the panel's investigation a waste of time.

"Does it matter if there were 200 or 300 or 400 [kidnappings in a given year]? Anyone who doesn't believe there are a lot of kidnappings in Phoenix has to be living in another state," Gordon said.

The mayor believes a final audit will show even more than the 350-plus kidnappings reported in each year under investigation.

"I'll tell you what, I'll put my reputation on it," Gordon said.

The panel, made up of two former judges, an Arizona State University criminology professor, and a former FBI agent will meet a few more times before finalizing a report in May.