In the 2020 Maricopa County Sheriff's race, Jerry Sheridan, the chief deputy in former Sheriff Joe Arpaio's administration, has tried to separate himself from his old boss without alienating his core followers.
"The people at MCSO want me back," Sheridan told ABC15 Investigator Melissa Blasius.
Sheridan, a Republican, said he wants to restore the nobility of policing. He spent his entire 38-year career at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. He rose from a volunteer, to patrol deputy, to supervising the jail, to chief deputy under the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
"Always remember you are the sheriff for all the citizens of Maricopa County," Sheridan said, "because I believe his [Arpaio's] downfall was he lost focus of that."
Sheridan retired after Paul Penzone beat Arpaio in the 2016 election. Penzone, a Democrat, is running for a second term.
Sheridan said, as chief deputy, he worked to fix many problems he "inherited," such as the backlog of hundreds of uninvestigated sex crime cases and claims the sheriff misspent tens of millions of dollars.
According to a federal judge, Arpaio, Sheridan, and other top aides engaged in "multiple acts of misconduct, dishonesty, and bad faith" in the Melendres civil rights case. In 2016, Sheridan and others were found to be in civil contempt of court after disregarding orders for MCSO to stop biased policing of Hispanics.
"The judge got it wrong," Sheridan said this week. "The judge is a human being. That’s his opinion. I was never untruthful. I was never hid anything from him."
Sheridan tried to challenge the contempt of court ruling, but an appeals court dismissed the case.
If elected Sheriff, Sheridan still must deal with Melendres case court orders and the federal court monitor who watches over MCSO to ensure equitable policing.
"It’s a very difficult undertaking, and I will again work diligently to comply with that," Sheridan said.
Sheridan said morale and turnover are bad now at MCSO, and he can fix it. He claimed the agency was short 150 deputies, 20 percent of the force, but an MCSO spokesman said there are less than 70 vacant deputy positions. The agency blames COVID-19 for delays in hiring.
Sheridan said he is a different person than former Sheriff Arpaio, but he wants to bring back some of his old boss's best-known programs. These include building an alternate version of tent city for inmates, restoring the volunteer sheriff's posses to their former size, and revamping animal cruelty investigations.
"I have horses and a dog that we rescued," Sheridan said. "This is part of who I am."
In a year when large groups of protesters have called for use-of-force reform and defunding the police, Sheridan's campaign signs say he will "stand up to the mobs."
He expressed disappointment in how law enforcement officials handled the looting at Scottsdale Fashion Square.
"If that chief fails to respond and protect the property or the lives of people, the sheriff has the responsibility to take action," Sheridan said.
His campaign plans to demonstrate next week how Sheridan would use a product called Skunk Water, which can be sprayed into a crowd if needed to disperse unlawful assemblies.