2 Phoenix police groups differ on Harris retirement

PHOENIX - Two of Phoenix's police associations opened up to ABC 15 about Chief Jack Harris retiring as head of the police force.

The Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association is standing behind Harris and says the city is at a loss without him.

"I was disappointed," PPSLA President Lt. Mark Hafkey said. "I was disappointed because first of all, Jack Harris takes a huge amount of experience out the door with him. Nearly 40 years on the job. He grew up in the ranks and worked his way up."

Hafkey has a lot of respect for Phoenix's retiring Public Safety Manager. He says Harris molded the city's police into a force more successful and qualified than they ever were.

As the 6th largest city in the country, Hafkey believes Harris improved Phoenix's reputation. He thinks the city could suffer without him.

"We're just going to have to work together to maintain that level of respectability across the country," he said.

The leaders of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Organization , which represents rank and file officers, take a different stance on Harris leaving. They have looked forward to this day. PLEA has often been a critic of Harris. They now hope all of the controversy their police department has been caught up in over the past year will fade away with Harris no longer in charge.

"I think our members have expressed some concern of the leadership in recent surveys, and I think everyone is just focused on the future and making things better," PLEA Treasurer Joe Clure said.

Clure told ABC15 the City of Phoenix will not be any less capable now that it is without a permanent police chief.

"We have an interim chief with Chief Joe Yahner," Clure said. "I think he will more than adequately lead the department."

The Phoenix Police Department's latest black eye, over incorrect kidnapping statistics, forced Harris to step aside while an investigation takes place. Both Clure and Hafkey do not think the situation had forced Harris's retirement.

"I don't think any of the recent controversy had anything to do with it," Hafkey said. "I think he was looking forward to retiring years ago and I think he's probably looking more towards it now."

Both associations agreed that the most important thing now is to get a new permanent replacement for Harris. With as big a city as Phoenix is, they say it will take a lengthy, nationwide search.

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