The End Of Arpaiocracy?

This week, Democratic Perspective hosted Paul Penzone who is running against Joe Arpaio, self-proclaimed as “America’s Toughest Sheriff.”

Penzone studied criminal justice, graduating from Northern Arizona University before joining the Phoenix Police Department in 1998. During his 21-year career, he began as a patrol officer and rose through the ranks to manage the successful Silent Witness program. He has been recognized for capturing high value criminals.

We began by asking why he’s running for sheriff. He answered, “What I’ve seen is a change in leadership over the years where there’s a loss of focus on serving our community and, because I believe so much on what law enforcement represents, I just couldn’t stay on the sidelines when I knew I could make a difference to bring it back to where our community feels galvanized and safer as opposed to fragmented as we are right now.”

Turning to Arpaio’s record, we asked about reports that 75 percent of the cases in Maricopa County are cleared without arrests. “What’s happening there is just a lack of fundamentally sound law enforcement,” Penzone said. “It’s not easy to solve cases, but at the same time, if you’re seeing cases cleared without any arrests whatsoever, what that’s telling you is that there’s not a thorough enough investigation, the deputies are not trained effectively enough to be accomplishing the things that we need. If three-fourths of the cases that you’re engaged in have no arrests, yet there are criminal implications, you’re really failing in your effort to keep the community safe.”

Asked about the 40,000 felony warrants in Maricopa County that have not served, he replied, “We went back and forth on those numbers. It was 40,000 at one time, but now I think the number is around 30,000…because other agencies have gotten engaged.”
“It’s really important that everyone understands that the majority of crimes are committed by a small percentage of the population,” he continued. “And unfortunately, those are the felony cases that we’re speaking about. If you want to reduce crime, you must hold those accountable who are already responsible for crime. If not, they’re back out on the street repeating their behaviors. The sheriff is the only leader, or at least one of the few in our county, that has not committed full-time deputies to a task force focused solely on the recovery of wanted fugitives. That tells me that he’s not focused on the biggest threat to our safety.”

We then asked about MCSO’s failure to investigate sex crimes and child molestations in El Mirage. “I’m very familiar with a lot of these cases,” he said. “As a matter of fact, when the sheriff’s office was removed from that contract, El Mirage started its own Police Department. It was two former assistant chiefs of the Phoenix PD who went out there to – the only thing I can say is to clean up the mess – because, unfortunately, that community was neglected. If we saw that in other communities, I don’t think it would have gone quietly into the night.”

Addressing the estimated $6 million spent on lawsuits defending Arpaio, Penzone said, “Well, actually the number is far higher. The number in the lawsuits is upwards of $50 million of costs and payouts. To put it in perspective, that is about the equivalent of the budget for an entire moderate-sized police department such as the Scottsdale Police Department. That is their annual budget.”

“It’s bad enough when we see a person we elected to public office abuse their authority,” he continued. “But when you add to that law enforcement powers it is a very intimidating, destructive force that can do a lot to tear apart our community. We have a great opportunity here. We, literally overnight in one election, can change the course of the reputation of our community across the nation and send a message that our community will no longer tolerate this. We don’t need the Department of Justice to step in on our behalf. We can get the ship righted.”

Questioned about his own priorities, Penzone responded, “Fugitives must be a priority. We have a severe challege as it relates to drug trafficking, human trafficking and human slavery. There are young people within our community, not just those who are immigrants from Mexico or other countries, but US citizens who are being victimized and treated as slaves and prostitutes on our streets. We have a challenge with crime against children as well as families, in general. We have to protect the core value within our communities, which is our families.”

“For me the priorities would be ensuring that detention centers are being run properly, safely and efficiently, that the areas under the jurisdiction of the sheriff…patrols and the investigative resources dedicated there must be properly allocated for the safety of deputies as much as for the communities,” he continued. “Fugitives and crimes against children will always be a priority for me because they’re our future, our most precious asset, and we must protect them.”

Asked if immigration should be a priority, he stated, “We only have so many resources and so many dollars that can be allocated as relates to illegal immigration. We have to make a decision if we want those dollars spent on criminals in our community…I understand that being in the country illegally is a crime…but I’m speaking of those responsible for robberies and burgalries and sex crimes and other issues. If we spend our resources on immigration and neglect other areas, we are not safer because of it.”

As for Arpaio’s national fame, Penzone said, “I’m a firm believer that the best law enforcement is the one that draws the least amount of attention. The only time we should be seen in the community is when we need help solving a crime or when we need to provide information so you can be safer in your life.”

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