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Sheriff Paul Penzone said he’s fired employees for racial profiling

(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX – Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said he’s had to fire employees for racial profiling, and others have quit while under investigation.

“For the majority of the men and women here, they’re doing a great job,” Penzone told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos on Tuesday.

“But for those who don’t, there’s going to be consequences.”

Penzone’s department has been under federal court-ordered supervision because of racial profiling that occurred under former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Because of that, any investigation into misconduct in the department must be completed before action can be taken, he said.

“Oftentimes what occurs is they’ll depart during the course of the investigation because they know that the outcome is going to lead to a termination,” he said.

But it doesn’t always end that way.

“There have been other circumstances where I’ve had to act aggressively, whether it’s a demotion or termination for employees who have acted inappropriately, and that’s my job,” Penzone said.

“It’s not something that you take pleasure in, but it’s something that you do because it protects the reputation of those who do the job correctly.”

Penzone defeated Arpaio in the 2016 election, ending a 24-year reign by “America’s Toughest Sheriff” that was rife with controversy over how the department treated Latinos.

In 2017, Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for disobeying a 2011 court order about racial profiling practices, although he was pardoned by President Donald Trump.

Penzone said he understands why his department is being monitored but thinks some of the oversight is unnecessary.

“We have a debt to pay,” he said. “And I will tell you, there’s a lot of this debt that I’m paying because of my predecessor’s actions as an individual.

“So there are areas that I’d like to see us get relief on because they’re not about the leadership that’s currently in place, not just myself but the hierarchy.”

He said the department remains focused on meeting the requirements needed to end the federal oversight.

“We’re a work in progress, but what will not be tolerated while I’m the sheriff is any form of abuse, any form of racial profiling or bias, any unlawful practices,” he said.

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