Investigation finds PHX police retaliated against officer over kidnapping stats

A whistle-blowing police sergeant who raised questions about the accuracy of kidnapping statistics faced retaliation by the Phoenix Police Department, according to a federal investigation obtained by the ABC15 Investigators.

After a year-long investigation, the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General found Sgt. Phil Roberts was "retaliated against" because the police department "failed to vet" Robert's claims and then launched an internal investigation against Roberts after he brought forward allegations. 

The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, which represents more than 2,000 city officers, said it is concerned about the report.

 "If you become aware of wrong doing, you are obligated to report it," said Dave Kothe, the association's grievance chair. "But then you get into trouble? That's a chilling affect across the board about how we do our jobs."

The DOJ investigation into retaliation is directly tied to a second federal review of the city's 2008 kidnapping statistics.

In 2011, the ABC15 Investigators uncovered major discrepancies with kidnapping statistics cited in applications for $2.4 million in federal grants.

The Office of Inspector General would not comment on that case. That investigation is expected to be released later this month, city officials told the ABC15 Investigators.

Sgt. Phil Roberts is a 25-year veteran, and worked in the Home Invasion Kidnapping Enforcement Unit, called H.I.K.E..

More than two years ago, Roberts criticized statistics cited by the unit.

He also wrote a series of memos to the Phoenix City Manager's Office to report problems with the city's kidnapping statistics.

His first memo was written Aug. 2, 2009.

Less than three weeks later, Roberts was placed under internal investigation by the Phoenix PD. That investigation was followed by four additional cases against Roberts in the following months.

He was also reassigned to work 3 rd shift jail detail in south Phoenix.

None of the internal investigations found any wrongdoing by Roberts.

While the Office of Inspector General found that the Phoenix Police Department did retaliate in an internal investigation, they did not find that the department demoted or discriminated against Roberts for questioning the kidnapping statistics. 

Phoenix police officials released a statement to the ABC15 Investigators.

""The Phoenix Police Department has reviewed the OIG's report on this matter and concurs with the OIG findings that personnel actions were not taken in retaliation, and that no demotion, dismissal or other discrimination had taken place in response to any protected disclosure," the statement said.

 A police spokesman did not address the other retaliation claim and declined to comment further.

ABC15 obtained his entire personnel file through a public records request. Before he voiced concerns over the statistics, his file was flawless and without discipline.

Roberts was also denied "whistle-blower protection" multiple times by Assistant City Manager Ed Zuercher, records and e-mails show.

Roberts is now assigned to the department's patrol division and is working in south Phoenix.

He has also filed a lawsuit against the city.

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