Phoenix police approved kidnapping reality show?

PHOENIX - Phoenix Police approved a possible reality TV series last year about the city's kidnapping enforcement unit -- a decision coming at the same time concerns were raised about major inaccuracies with the crime's statistics, records show.

In January 2010, the department signed an agreement  with a company called Flow State Films to shoot a show called "H.I.K.E. Squad," according to documents obtained by ABC15.

The show raises even more questions about Phoenix's kidnapping numbers and the department's motive, criminal justice experts said. And at the same time, a lieutenant who runs the kidnapping team created a side business with the filmmaker without the department knowing, officials said.

"That's highly inappropriate," said Dr. Richard Weinblatt, a former police chief and criminal justice expert. "How does the community have any assurance that she doesn't alter what she says, what she does, what she reports or not, based on the future promise of what might come to her."

Four months after Phoenix police approved the deal, Lt. Laurel Burgett created a separate LLC company with Don Sikorski.

That company was called "Money Drop Productions."

Phoenix Police declined a formal interview but said they had no knowledge of Burgett's business deal.

Burgett said she didn't do anything wrong.

"I didn't make any money off this," she said. "This was created so I would have something to do after I retire."

But Weinblatt and other experts say it creates serious ethical questions.

"The main concern is that someone may have a present or future financial conflict of interest," Weinblatt said.

The City Manager's Office also didn't agree to an interview. But a city spokesperson said that the city did not authorize or know about any filming.

Through a public records request, the city released several documents for this story.

Our investigation found that Burgett did file for a notice of outside employment   with the city. But that notice did not mention anything about a production company.

The City Manager's Office also didn't agree to an interview. But a city spokesperson said that the city did not authorize or know about any filming.

City records show that it also may be against city regulations  to do outside work that crosses with a current position and to use city resources, records and equipment that aren't "otherwise available to the public."

Burgett was the force behind creating the Home Invasion Kidnapping Enforcement Team in late 2008.

The city said the new team was needed because of an outbreak of border-related kidnappings and home invasions.

In 2008, the department reported 358 kidnappings. A figure caused Phoenix to get the label of the United States' "kidnapping capital."

But an ABC15 investigation exposed those statistics as inaccurate.

In fact, almost 40 percent of the reported kidnappings never should have been counted. And now the Phoenix Police department is under a federal review to see if those inaccurate statistics were used to get millions of dollars in federal grants.

"You don't want these kind of situations going on," Weinblatt said. "It's bad for the police profession. It's bad for the Phoenix Police Department.

"They need to get oversight. They need to get control of the situation," he said.

Click here to see the full ABC15 Investigation "Uncovering the Truth Behind Phoenix Kidnappings."
 

Print this article Back to Top

Comments