Phoenix Police Chief [sic] Jack Harris (right) accepts the flag from the honor guard that adorned the casket of Officer Travis Murphy, who was laid to rest during ceremonies at Phoenix Memorial Park, May 26, 2010. (Rob Schumacher, The Arizona Republic)


For anyone interested in the state of policing in Arizona’s largest city, today’s Arizona Republic has a Q&A with Jack Harris, the “Public-Safety Manager.”

Unfortunately, it will take you all of about eight minutes to read it. This interview with the most important cop in one of the state’s most beleaguered departments is about 30 column inches, and barely scrapes the surface of the Phoenix Police Department’s challenges.

I hesitate to nitpick the reporter who covered the story. William Hermann has reported on a wide variety of city topics over the years, and I’ve always appreciated his coverage. And there may have been all kinds of other factors that kept the published Q&A (too) short. Editors could have trimmed it (likely to fit more about Don Stapley’s lawsuit against Maricopa County, in regard to Andrew Thomas and the first-most-beleaguered law enforcement department in the state—the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office).

In 2007, Jack Harris retired as chief of police. Two weeks later, he became public-safety manager. (Michael Schennum, The Arizona Republic)

Of course, it’s possible that Harris only gave Hermann 15 minutes for questions. Or—worst of all—that he demanded the questions be e-mailed to him. But I hope Bill Hermann would have mentioned that in the story.

One of the most troubling aspects of Harris’s tenure—unacknowledged in the Q&A—is evident in the conflict between the story’s headline and the cutline of the accompanying photo by Rob Schumacher.

The photo shows “Jack Harris, Phoenix’s chief of police …”

That’s inaccurate, which the Republic tacitly acknowledges in the headline half-an-inch farther south. That hed reads, “Public-safety manager vows he’ll keep serving.”

So Harris is not the Chief of Police. That was the position her formerly occupied, until he retired and began drawing his pension. Immediately rehired by a compliant Mayor and City Council, he has been ever since the Public Safety Manager. With a new salary and shot at a new pension.

The City has claimed that it’s not the same job, that Harris has “added duties.” Well, OK. But is it possible that the “agency chaos” in the department has something to do with a pension end-run that has become all too familiar?

The Republic has covered the Harris pension controversy before. Most recently, they reported that the City Council voted to pay Harris’s legal bills in the pension challenge. So how about some follow-up questions while Harris sits on the hot seat?

In addition, the Republic has covered Arizona’s public pension problems in depth this fall. The economic consequences may be severe (though we may ultimately discover, not as severe as the blaring headlines would suggest). But one of the unfortunate consequences of double-dipping goes beyond the merely fiscal; it is also ethical, a crisis in confidence.

Here’s hoping Bill Hermann asked the Chief—I mean the Manager—about the economic machinations that got him to keep his position. His response, if we get it, could go a long way toward proving Harris’s claim that his department “doesn’t put up with poor behavior. We’re not hiding anything.”