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After officer’s funeral, Penzone backs Arizona ban on texting and driving

Officer Clayton Townsend (Salt River Police Department Photo)

PHOENIX — Following the death of Salt River Police Officer Clayton Townsend, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said Arizona needs a statewide ban on texting and driving.

Townsend was struck and killed by a car while conducting a traffic stop on the Loop 101 on Jan. 8.

The driver of the car that struck Townsend admitted to police that he was texting while driving at the time of the accident.

Penzone attended the funeral service for the officer, which was held Tuesday morning at Christ’s Church of the Valley in the northwest Valley.

“To get a glimpse of this young man through the stories and in the eyes of those who knew him and loved him … you felt the privilege of realizing what a man of character he was, first and foremost,” Penzone told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos.

Penzone said someone at the funeral said Townsend and his partners once went to a lemonade stand and bought all of the food and drinks to make the kids’ day.

“He never seeked out attention. He just wanted to do right by others. And he was a good officer, he worked hard to keep that community safe,” he said.

The day after Townsend’s death, an MCSO deputy was struck by a car and was hospitalized in serious condition. He was released from the hospital Monday.

An MCSO sergeant was recently involved in a shooting in which he was “under attack,” according to Penzone.

“I just think that we’re losing sight that there are good people who are the majority and there are bad people who are the minority, and we need to band together and stop being so divisive to each other, because it is not acceptable for us to think that loss of life in law enforcement … is the cost of doing business,” he said.

One thing Penzone thinks could minimize harm is enacting a statewide texting and driving ban in Arizona.

“We need hands-free, period. One hundred percent, in the vehicle, hands-free, and we need to stop thinking that whatever we’re doing on the phone is more important than what’s in front of us on the roadway,” he said.

“And when we make that commitment as a community, it won’t just promote safety for law enforcement professionals who are on the roadways doing their job, it will promote safety for our own families, our children, everyone, whether they’re behind the wheel, or they’re on the side of the road or any space.”

The sheriff also supports the promise Gov. Doug Ducey made in his State of the State address Monday that the state will put a law enforcement officer in every school that needs one.

“I absolutely support him. … It’s unfortunate that we have to consider this, or that we have a need for it, but I commend the governor by having the courage to speak to it and wanting to find a way to fund it, because it is absolutely a step in the right direction for safety.”

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