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Harris - Phoenix Magazine Sept 2011.PDF - Adobe Acrobat Standard

Harris - Phoenix Magazine Sept 2011.PDF - Adobe Acrobat Standard

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Article in Phoenix Magazine – September, 2011 on Former Phoenix Police chief, Jack Ass Harris. Even after being Phoenix’s top cop – he’s still the same arrogant prick.

Article in Phoenix Magazine – September, 2011 on Former Phoenix Police chief, Jack Ass Harris. Even after being Phoenix’s top cop – he’s still the same arrogant prick.

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Chris Bianco's Where to Score Downtown's

Bold New Plans Stylish Wine Racks Colorful Murals
- --
I es oenlx
People I News I Arts I Things to Do I History I Spotlight
HLet's face it, the
reason I am not
there today is be­
cause ofpolitics."
- JACK HARRIS
Former Phoenix Police Chief Jack F. Harris is waiving his right
to remain silent on the stormy ending to his storybook career.
I BY ADAM KLAWONN I PHOTOS BY TROY AOSSEY
O
FFICE POLITICS AND ALMOST 40 YEARS OF CHASING BAD GUYS
should have left Jack F. Harris a husk of a man. Instead, he has just gone for a 2o-mile
bike ride from Bell Road down into Paradise Valley, and now he's ready to talk about why
he is no longer Phoenix's top cop. The reason involves illegal immigrants, he says. But on
top of that, there's a dead police sergeant, an internal fraud investigation, an officer accused ofmur-
Phoenix Magazine SEPTEMBER 201139
Phoenix Files People
10 highlights from
Harris' career
--e Police department tackles
homeland security
issues for World Series
2001
2006 --e Police arrest "Baseline Killer" :
for allegedly committing a
string of robberies, rapes,
kidnappings and murders
---... Police arrest "Serial
Shooters," who commit­
ted at least six murders and
wounded at least 19 others
---... More than 100,000 people
march Downtown to protest
immigration sweeps.
2010 --e Following SB 1070, police
department launches illegal
immigration task force. Har­
ris states that immigration
:
checks are not a good use of
department resources, anger- ~
ing the Phoenix Law Enforce- ~
ment Association
----. Police sergeant Sean Drenth
found dead; investigators
cannot determine whether
death is suicide or homicide
,--------e. Internal police probe finds
about 30 officers may have
been paid for off-duty secu­
rity work they didn't do
----. Police officer Richard
Chrisman accused of
allegedly shooting an
unarmed suspect and his
dog
'-----. Internal memo accuses police:
department of inflating kid­
napping stats to collect $2.4
million in federal funds; 2011
audits determine kidnapping
stats were under-counted
,... Harris resigns
dering a suspect (and the suspect's dog)
and accusations of falsifying crime statis­
tics to obtain federal funds. Harris was chief
for almost seven years, but he says the last
18 months were the most difficult period of
his career.
Harris, 61, is unique
School in 1967 and attended Phoenix Col­
lege. His father told him he thought a career
as a police detective would be cool. So Harris
earned his two-year degree in police science.
When he was notified that he was being draft­
ed for the Vietnam War,
Harris joined the Ma­
Harris says the last 18 months
of his 39-year career were the
among cops nation­ rine reserves and then
wide. He is one of the the National Guard, be­
hardest.
few officers to go from
the street to the top
office in a big-city po­
lice department in his
hometown. His ten­
ure includes home­
land security issues
for the 2001 World Se­
ries, immigration mass
marches Downtown,
serial killers and a raft
of other challenging
cases. Meanwhile, the
rate of property and vi­
olent crimes in Phoenix
has dropped every year
since 2003, according to
FBI crime report statistics.
Harris says he's proud of his accomplish­
ments. But right now, he's having fun. In
May, he ran San Francisco's popular Bay to
Breakers 12Krun. These sorts ofevents used
to be his shtick. But with one artificial knee
(due to a blown ACL he suffered years ago),
Harris thought it better to throttle back
and run half the race. Then he realized he
was almost to the beach. "I thought, 'I'm
just going to go ahead and finish.' I did the
whole seven-and-a-halfmiles," he says.
The day after beinginterviewed byPHOE­
NIX magazine, Harris was set to go joyriding
with a friend on a speedboat. But what to
drive there? The blacked-out 2009 Chevrolet
Corvette 206? The new Dodge Ram pickup?
One ofhis two Harley-Davidson motorcycles?
Choices, choices. He likes motorized toys,
and savings from his salary ($193,377 per
year) plus a generous state pension ($95,715
per year) buys a lot of fun.
"There's a world out there to enjoy,"
he says. "And I'm enjoying the retirement
part of it. I've been working since I was 15
and never had a real serious break. There
are days I look out and say, 'You know, this
could get boring if I don't have enough
things to do,' but I haven't found that yet."
Life wasn't always so carefree. The son
of a truck driver and a waitress, Harris grew
up in west Phoenix near 35th Avenue and
Van Buren Street, living in the Alzona hous­
ing project for low-income families.
Harris graduated from Carl Hayden High
ing hired by the Phoe­
nix Police Department
while serving in the
guard's reserves. He
completed a nine-year
military commitment.
As Phoenix's
population boomed,
Harris grew up with
the department. He
started in south Phoe­
nix and was an offi­
cer for 11 years, then
spent four to six years
at every rank - except
detective - on his way
to the top. He says his
three favorite positions involved overnight
shifts as a motorcycle officer on the DUI
squad; posing as a "buyer" with the depart­
ment's vice and narcotics unit; and orga­
nizing complicated police barricades as a
SWAT team lieutenant.
The serial rapist case and the serial shoot­
er case were the peak of his tenure as chief,
Harris says. At press time, Mark Goudeau was
on trial for allegedly committing a string of
robberies, rapes, kidnappings and murders
as the "Baseline Killer" in 2005 and 2006.
During the same period, authorities believed
a "Serial Shooter" was terrorizing the Valley.
Thrns out, two men were involved: In 2009,
Dale Hausner and Samuel Dieteman were
convicted of murder and other charges in
that case.
But the intangible parts of his chief
status aren't so obvious. For example,
when more than 100,000 people marched
through Downtown in April 2006 to pro­
test immigration sweeps and promote civil
rights, Phoenix police were ready. Harris
credits the department's community re­
sponse teams for bringing in the organizers
and Hispanic leaders to negotiate a better
route than Central Avenue, which was un­
der construction for light rail.
"Some people thought, 'Oh, you're just
giving in to the immigrant community,'" Har­
ris says. "Well I can guarantee you, if100,000
people want to march down the street right
now, they can march. You can't stop them.
continued on page 42
40 SEPTEMBER 2011 Phoenix Magazine
2011
• :J
. ,
.,.-1,
W

continuedfrom page 40
So the best we can do is do it with the least
amount of disruption to the community and
the most safety for everyone involved."
Maybe Harris should have been watch­
ing out for his own safety. As public support
for stricter immigration enforcement in­
tensified, Mesa Republican Senator Russell
Pearce's pet legislation gained more steam
at the state Legislature. By the time Repub­
lican Governor Jan Brewer signed Senate
Bill 1070 into law in April 2010, her popular­
ity had skyrocketed. Other politicians were
jumping on the political bandwagon.
As a result, Harris says, key officials at City
Hall changed their position; Harris did not.
He had joined with several other police chiefs
in major U.S. cities and, as a group, they de­
cided routine immigration checks were not
a good use of their departments' limited re­
sources. (A federal judge eventually blocked
the most controversial parts of SB 1070 from
talring effect in August 2010, and the Arizona
Attorney General was still challenging that
decision at press time.)
Under Harris, Phoenix police waded into
the immigration fight. He says the depart­
ment brought 10 federal immigration agents
into the office to work on violent crimes
that may involve illegal immigrants. It also
launched a task force with the state Depart­
ment of Public Safety and U.S. Immigration
and Customs Enforcement officers to pursue
human smugglers and locate drop houses.
But police officers should not be involved,
in the day-to-day activities of catching illegal
immigrants who are not involved in violent
crimes, he says. After all, he adds, there may
be 300 Phoenix police officers covering 510
square miles and a million-and-a-halfpeople
in the city - and that's on a good day. Should
the cops really be chasing gardeners?
"You have to decide: Am I going to use my
resources to go after the smugglers, the drug
dealers, the murderers, the rapists, the bur­
glars, or am I going to tell my officers, 'Ifyou
want to spend your day picking up landscap­
ers and takin' 'em over to ICE [U.S. Immigra­
tion and Customs Enforcement], go ahead'
- that doesn't make any sense. It's not that
we [police chiefs] agreed there shouldn't be
more enforcement of immigration laws. It's
just a matter ofpriorities, that's all."
Harris' position angered officials at
the Phoenix Law Enforcement Associa­
tion (PLEA), the union that represents the
department's police officers. "That kind of
started the 'Let's get the police chief fired'
philosophy that has been going on over at
PLEA for several years," Harris says.
PLEA President Mark Spencer says Har­
"You have to decide: Am I going to
use my resources to go after the
smugglers, the drug dealers, the
murderers, the rapists, the
burglars, or am I going to tell my
officers, 'If you want to spend your
day picking up landscapers and
takin' 'em over to ICE, go ahead' ­
that doesn't make any sense."
ris should be recognized for his 39 years of
service but that he ultimately played politics
with the illegal immigration issue by not al­
lowing officers more leeway in calling federal
authorities if they believed they encountered
an illegal immigrant while on duty. Spencer
credits SB 1070 and police officers' limited
use of its new rules with driving Phoenix's
crime rate down because officers were able to
detain more illegal immigrants.
"I hope the next chief has the ability to
see the value of community partnerships and
see the value of police labor," Spencer says.
"In other words, I hope the next chiefunder­
stands the importance of people who pay to
get the work done - taxpayers - and the peo­
ple who actually do the work - police officers.
I think that's crucial. And there truly needs to
be a commitment to the rule oflaw."
While the illegal immigration debate
blew through the department, Harris found
himself addressing several internal police
scandals. In October 2010, Phoenix police
Sergeant Sean Drenth was found dead out­
side his patrol car near 19th Avenue and
Jefferson Street. Investigators couldn't fig­
ure out if Drenth's death was a homicide or
a suicide.
Drenth was implicated in a three-year
internal police probe that found about 30 of­
ficers may have been paid for off-duty secu­
rity work they didn't actually do. Harris says
investigators forwarded their findings to the
state Attorney General for prosecution two
years ago, but it took 18 months for attorneys
to sift through the details and file charges.
It wasn't as big as it was made out to be,
Harris says: Most of the officers had likely
clocked in a bit late and clocked out a bit
early to get to their off-duty security jobs but
had been paid for that time. They weren't
taking money under the table, and the dam­
ages involved less than $1,000 per officer. In
the end, only four were charged with felony
- JACK HARRIS
fraud, and at press time, their cases were at
various stages in the legal system.
Which leaves us with the case of Rich­
ard Chrisman, a Phoenix police officer who
was fired in March after authorities charged
him with second-degree murder and ani­
mal cruelty. They claim he shot an unarmed
man suspected of domestic violence - and
the 29-year-old man's pit bull - after re­
sponding to a call for service from a south
Phoenix trailer park in October 2010. Chris­
man has pleaded innocent to the charges,
and the trial was under way at press time.
But the incident that shattered Harris'
dwindling support at City Hall involved kid­
napping statistics. In an internal city memo,
a Phoenix police sergeant reportedly com­
plained that the department had inflated
its kidnapping statistics to collect $2.4 mil­
lion in federal grant funds to combat the is­
sue. The complaint triggered audits, which
later found that the number of kidnappings
were under-counted. Harris was vindicated,
but it was too late: Fed up with the politi­
cal drama, he had already turned in a one­
sentence resignation letter inApril and left.
Harris says he has no regrets. He says he
may consider working as a consultant, an
expert witness on law enforcement issues
in court trials, or an executive in the pri­
vate-security business - but not for at least
six months. Being chief is still too fresh.
"In retrospect, it is probably more art
than science," he says of the job. "You cer­
tainly learn the technology and the ins and
outs of the criminal justice system. But
the one thing that surprised me, and that
I think surprises most cops who become
police chiefs, is the politics of the job. And
let's face it, the reason I am not there today
- even though I was getting close to retire­
ment anyway - is because of the politics."
- Adam Klawonn can be reached at
phxmag@citieswestpub.com.
42 SEPTEMBER 2011 Phoenix Magazine

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