In a debate hosted by Arizona PBS, The Arizona Republic, and KJZZ, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone and challenger Jerry Sheridan discussed the issues and explained their positions. The sheriff oversees more than 3,300 employees of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), the third-largest sheriff’s office in the nation.
Topics for the debate included:
- Melendres case
- Racial profiling and mandated reforms
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- Internal affairs investigation backlog
- Joe Arpaio
Democratic incumbent Paul Penzone was elected in 2016 over former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Penzone, a former Phoenix police officer, has worked in law enforcement and public safety for over 30 years and ran the Silent Witness program for seven years.
Republican challenger Jerry Sheridan worked in the sheriff’s office for 38 years and was Chief Deputy to the previous sheriff, Joe Arpaio. Sheridan, the son of an NYPD lieutenant, spent 20 years in an executive chief position before resigning in 2016.
Sheridan said he wanted Penzone to succeed and did not plan to run for sheriff after Sheriff Arpaio lost in 2016. “I didn’t have an idea that I wanted to run for sheriff, [but] when I started to get phone calls in the early part of 2017 from the people that worked at MCSO, the deputies, the detention officers and civilian employees… I noticed that was not going to happen,” said Sheridan in his opening statement.
“I do not want to run for another office. It’s about the people at MCSO and the public that they serve,” said Sheridan
Penzone introduced himself by addressing the rising tensions between civilians and law enforcement. “I ensure that everybody is held accountable, transparent and that they understand that leading by example, with integrity, is the number one attribute that is required in this office.”
Judicial verdicts on the civil rights violations from the MCSO lead to mandated reforms on the department after the Melendres case. “There are over 200 paragraphs that the MCSO must be in compliance with for three consecutive years,” police documents stated.
Penzone said that complying with the reforms was a must, to regain the public trust lost with the “unforgivable” violations of the past. “The majority of men and woman of the organization are thoughtful, high integrity and very good at their job, but once you own a debt like this you are required to, in order to earn public trust back, to overcome it to be transparent and to strive and meet those orders.”
Clarifying his former role as Chief Deputy, Sheridan explains that he follows the guidelines set by the sheriff, but when elected, he will follow his own. “I am not Joe Arpaio, I am Jerry Sheridan.”
Currently, there is a backlog of over 1800 internal affair investigations, something Sheridan said did not exist during his time. Penzone argues that this was a result of Sheridan’s actions during the Melendres case.
Penzone and Sheridan both agreed on enforcing current ICE legislation with due process.