The Phoenix Police Department is scrambling to make sense of accusations that officers may have given false information to the federal government in order to get more federal grants.

The applications for federal grants in 2009 claim there were 368 kidnappings in 2008, which sent fear throughout the nation about what was going on in Phoenix, and the city was labeled the “Kidnapping Capitol of the U.S.” Sen. John McCain has used the figures to gain a push for illegal immigration reform, and Mayor Phil Gordon and Public Safety Manager Jack Harris took the stats to the federal government to ask for funds to fight the problem.

The city was granted just under $2 million to start a kidnapping squad.

In August of 2010, Phoenix Sgt. Phil Roberts put together an analysis of the kidnapping reports and alerted his supervisor that something was off, according to Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who respresents Ahwatukee Foothills. DiCiccio said he believes Roberts could be an unknown hero in the scandal.

“I would not even contemplate making these allegations if I did not know I have the proof and facts to substantiate my claims,” Roberts said in a memorandum sent to the City Council in March of 2010. He goes on to say that the City Manager’s Office refused to look into his claims.

DiCiccio and two other council members are speaking out, calling for action from City Manager David Cavazos. They would like Harris to be treated like any other officer under investigation and be moved from his position until the issue is resolved.

The city of Phoenix is investigating whether procedures were violated, but DiCiccio said the investigation needs to be done by an outside agency. The Justice Department is also looking into whether the kidnapping numbers are correct.

For now, Harris remains in his position, and the sergeant who uncovered the falsities has been demoted after a six- to 12-month internal investigation against him.

A city press conference on the issue was scheduled after press time on Thursday, but AFN readers can visit for the latest on this ongoing story.

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