In 2008, the Phoenix Police Department claimed that it had 358 kidnappings, making it the kidnapping capital of the United States.  It asked for help from the federal government, in the form of grants.  The problem was is that the PD was classifying everything as a kidnapping in its database to arrive at that number.  All in an effort to obtain millions of dollars in federal funds.

Sergeant Phil Roberts knew that the information was incorrect.  He was a supervisor in the department’s kidnapping unit.  So in 2009, he began to write memos stating that the information was incorrect.  And in August of 2011, the Chief of Police, Jack Harris, had enough.  He ordered an internal affairs investigation into Roberts activities.  This resulted in the termination of Roberts.

Roberts claimed that he was being retaliated against for being a whistleblower.  The city said that he was not, and had violated numerous policies.  They fired Roberts.  So in 2011, Roberts filed suit in U.S. District Court alleging wrongful termination and retaliation.  On July 25, 2013, in court ordered mediation, the city offered Roberts his job back.  It is unclear if he will receive back pay.

How many actual kidnappings were there?  According to the log kept by a PD lieutenant over the kidnapping unit, 49.  A federal immigration officer determined there were 48.  A review by a local TV station of the records showed that charitably there might have been as many as 82.  The other 300 (+ or -, dependent on which number you use) were other offenses, kidnappings from other jurisdictions (like Houston), vehicle impounds, and cases where there was no offense at all.

After this came to light, Chief Jack Harris was relieved of duty the next day and forced out.  The IA lieutenant over the investigation resigned suddenly, after it became apparent that she provided false information to federal investigators.  The department finally admitted that the data might not be correct.

Note that the entire power of the police department and the city came down on Sgt. Roberts.  It took almost 3 years for him to clear his name and win his job back.  How many officers are willing to do the same?  They have bills, wives or husbands, families, and need to have a job.  They aren’t willing to take that kind of risk.

 

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