Penzone calls traffic stop decrease ‘old news,’ says MCSO already improving

Apr 16, 2019, 4:32 AM | Updated: 3:12 pm

(AP Photo/Matt York)...

(AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — Sheriff Paul Penzone says a new report showing Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office deputies conducted more than 50% fewer traffic stops in 2018 than in 2015 is “old news.”

“We’ve already taken steps. We have addressed issues within the oversight to ensure there is more transparency for our deputies so they can better understand what is expected,” Penzone told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday.

He said the agency has also implemented more patrol vehicles in high-traffic areas and met with the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to apply for grants for radar equipment.

The Associated Press report found that the agency conducted 31,700 stops in 2015 and only 15,200 in 2018, raising questions if deputies are missing evidence of drug trafficking, burglaries and other crimes.

The decrease was attributed to court orders put in place after a federal judge found the department was racially profiling Latinos in then-Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration crackdowns.

“I think the decline in traffic stops began after the implementation of court orders,” Penzone said.

“And it had to do with a lot of changes, and a considerable amount of documentation that the deputies are required to do on traffic stops, some concerns that were expressed relative to the scrutiny they were facing and just a lot of factors.”

Penzone, who defeated “America’s Toughest Sheriff” in the 2016 election, said the agency is experiencing “growing pains” due to the fallout of Arpaio’s policies.

“We have to be effective for traffic enforcement,” Penzone said.

“In the past, those numbers may not be a true reflection of traffic issues, because we know that there were behaviors and practices that were deemed to be unlawful.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Penzone calls traffic stop decrease ‘old news,’ says MCSO already improving