Sheriff Penzone speaks out about MCSO budget cuts

Posted at 6:41 PM, May 05, 2017

It was a marathon night for those working at the Arizona State Capitol. They stayed to roughly 3 a.m. Friday morning finalizing a budget to send to the Governor's desk for approval.

The $9.8 billion budget spelling out increases for teachers and universities, but cuts to Planned Parenthood and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department.

That decrease was something that blinded-sided Sheriff Paul Penzone.

"It was placed in the 11th hour of the budget," Sheriff Penzone said in a press conference on Thursday. "Prohibiting our ability to speak out."

Sheriff Penzone took the $1.6 million dollar slice to his department personally and pointed to politics being the motivating factor.

"I'm a non-partisan law enforcement professional," Sheriff Penzone said. "[I] pursued this office from a platform where you had to have a political affiliation. But, I've never made decisions that were political in nature."

But, according to Governor Doug Ducey's office, this was in the best interest of public safety, not a political attack.

"It's important to keep it in perspective," said Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesperson for Governor Ducey. "The Sheriff has a more than $350 million budget. We're talking about less than half a percent."

Scarpinato said, while the needs of Maricopa County are not lost on them, this time around — Governor Ducey has a different priority. That is testing rape kits which have been sitting in a locked room, some more than 5 years old.

"These dollars will go toward to actually clearing that backlog," Scarpinato explained. "And then moving forward, making sure that it doesn't exist anymore."

ABC15 was first to expose the rape kit backlog back in 2012 that left predators on our streets.

Last year, by the time the Governor formed a task force to tackle the hold-up, there were more than 6,000 kits that were still untouched.

But, should that mean the state takes away the cash from MCSO, who said the money was specifically used for drug and gang enforcement?

"This means that we will have fewer resources out in the area of the corridors to intercept drugs and drug traffickers before they get into our communities or our neighborhoods," Sheriff Penzone said.

But, the Governor's office is confident MCSO will be able to operate without those other funds.

The budget has not officially been approved but is expected to be signed without vetoes by Governor Ducey early next week.