Maricopa Co. Sheriff Paul Penzone wants second term for reforms

Penzone faces former Sheriff Arpaio's top aide in election
Posted at 8:14 PM, Oct 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-09 00:13:06-04

Four years after his stunning upset of "America's Toughest Sheriff" Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone is asking voters for a second term to continue his reform agenda.

"Earning it should be about integrity and ethics," Penzone told a crowd of Democratic supporters last month. "It should be about leadership that’s predicated in truth."

Penzone's Republican challenger, Jerry Sheridan, served 38 years in the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. From 2010 to 2016, he was chief deputy under Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Penzone told ABC15 he's tried to depoliticize the sheriff's office. Using the slogan oneMCSO, he has tried to earn trust with the message that his agency will protect and respect everyone.

"Term one was a lot about rebuilding and restructuring things because when I took over an office that had so many challenges from past," Penzone said.

Sheriff Penzone inherited a set of federal court orders to ensure deputies don't racially profile. Arpaio-era policies and programs resulted in mass arrests of undocumented immigrants and the Melendres v. Arpaio civil rights lawsuit.

"Our improvement in federal court oversight is tremendous," Penzone said. He added MCSO was now above 90% compliant in almost every category.

Penzone has been chastised by the Melendres judge or the federal court monitor at least twice. This year he faced criticism for taking too long to complete internal investigations on deputies. He also did not attend a 2019 community meeting, but he said we went to the location and talked to the overflow crowd.

"I probably stood outside for close to an hour visiting with those folks, and then I left," Penzone said.

Penzone founded the FATE fugitive apprehension team, which he said has led to 600 arrests. He transformed the ALPHA jail substance abuse program into MOSAIC, which focuses on an evidence-based approach to help 800 inmates a year rebuild their lives.

He also streamlined or eliminated many of former sheriff Arpaio's signature programs from tent city to the sheriff's volunteer posse.

Penzone says he's saved $40 million from the MCSO budget, reduced lawsuits, and gave deputies pay raises.

This year, as protesters nationwide have pushed for "defunding" the police, Penzone opposes the concept.

"If we don’t fund properly, we can’t have appropriate oversight," he said. "We can’t have appropriate training, and we will be short on equipment things like tasers or other non-lethal weapons."

As for his second term goals, Penzone said he wants to "restore law enforcement to a place where we earn the respect of the people we serve."

Prior to becoming sheriff, Penzone served as a Phoenix police sergeant, including running the Silent Witness program. He also worked as a vice president at Childhelp, which serves abused and neglected children, and he was a security consultant.