Jack Harris: Phoenix, AZ

Former Chief of Police who was vilified for speaking out against passage of Arizona’s “Show Me Your Papers” law, SB 1070

The city of Phoenix and the state of Arizona are widely considered to be “ground zero” in the national immigration debate. Arizona has one of the nation’s largest undocumented immigrant populations and Phoenix is a major point of entry for both documented and undocumented immigrants from Mexico. The trafficking of drugs and human beings are also serious law enforcement challenges. The public debate about the role of local police in helping federal authorities to enforce immigration laws has been especially heated in Arizona, leading to the passage of SB 1070 last year.

Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris, a 39-year veteran who had worked his way up from patrol officer, faced immense pressure to adopt policies that would make his police department an active enforcer of federal immigration laws. Instead, he insisted on focusing resources on fighting serious crimes and protecting the rights and safety of all residents, including immigrants.

Harris took a very public stand before the law was signed. “I believe SB1070 will have a negative effect on our community policing efforts. I am very concerned that victims and witnesses will be afraid to call police for fear of deportation.”

After the passage SB1070, signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer in 2010, Harris’ principled opposition to the law may have cost him his job. He was removed from day-to-day operations of the Police Department in March 2011. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon has been an outspoken supporter of the chief and believes, “The chief paid the price for standing up for the civil rights of everyone; he would not support a law that was flawed and is proving it is flawed,” Gordon said

Despite the personal consequences, Harris’s leadership on the immigration issue has inspired many of his fellow police chiefs across the nation to speak out against major changes in local police involvement in enforcing federal immigration laws. He has been described by the President of the Police Executive Research Forum as a true “profile in courage.”


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The Freedom From Fear Awards are produced by Public Interest Projects, (PIP).  PIP is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that brings together and strengthens the work of philanthropic institutions, donors, nonprofit groups and other public interest organizations sharing a vision of a society that ensures justice, dignity and opportunity for all people.   Statements and activities of Freedom from Fear Award winners do not necessarily reflect the views of PIP.

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