Penzone: Critics compiling police shootings into ‘one, long narrative’
PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said Tuesday that he supports Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams amid criticism of her department’s record number of officer-involved shootings this year.
Williams said last week that a New York Times article, titled “How Phoenix Explains a Rise in Police Violence: It’s the Civilians’ Fault,” misrepresented her previous statements about the shootings.
Penzone agreed with Williams’ characterization of the article.
“I do not believe for one moment that her statement relative to the shootings … was in any way meant to criticize or blame those whose lives were lost because the circumstances,” Penzone told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos on Tuesday.
So far this year in Phoenix, there have been 42 officer-involved shootings, while last year there were 21. The previous record was 33 in 2013.
The 42nd shooting happened Tuesday morning, when officers shot and killed a man who was reportedly pointing a gun at traffic.
Penzone said critics are making a mistake by compiling all officer-involved shootings into “one, long narrative.”
He described an MCSO-involved shooting that happened last week in Mesa.
Deputies shot and killed a man who was “behaving erratically, potentially intoxicated, armed with a gun, not only firing it but then advancing on our deputies who had no choice,” he said.
Penzone said he wants critics to remember that police are often personally devastated by shootings.
“Whether it is activists or others who want to paint this broad stroke, I tell you what — put the badge on, put the gun belt on, put the shoes on, and see how difficult it is in a real-world circumstance to deal with that,” he said.
Penzone said he would like to see more training and resources put toward non-lethal methods, but noted that non-lethal methods were unsuccessful in last week’s shooting.
“(Phoenix Police) could have 10 (officer-involved shootings) next year, with changing nothing,” he said.
As for preventing future shootings, factors like depression and alcohol use brought on by the holidays can create unsafe situations, Penzone said.
“Holiday seasons are absolutely high-stress, high-anxiety, high-depression. If you have a loved one in need, find help — don’t wait until the circumstance escalates,” he said.