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Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to cut back arrests to limit virus exposure

(AP Photo/Raquel Dillion)

PHOENIX – The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office plans to curtail the number of inmates in its jail by making fewer arrests to limit employees’ exposure to coronavirus.

“We have to keep the jail population down,” Sheriff Paul Penzone told KTAR News Arizona’s Morning News on Friday. Violent crimes will continue to be a priority, but other times, deputies will write up citations.

“Our detention officers have one of the most difficult jobs … because they are in direct contact and direct space with a high volume of inmates.”

But Thursday, Penzone’s office confirmed an employee at the headquarters in downtown Phoenix tested positive for the virus.

While the unidentified person had access to the entire building near Seventh Avenue and Jefferson Street, shifts had been designed so that if someone was exposed, they weren’t likely to infect many others, he said.

The sheriff’s office joined Phoenix Police in reducing arrests during the outbreak.

Chief Jeri Williams told KTAR News’ The Mike Broomhead Show Thursday her department is arresting fewer nonviolent offenders.

Instead, they are handing out summonses to limit crowding in jails and one-on-one contact with officers.

Deputies have always had discretion whether or not to make an arrest – traffic enforcement, for instance – Penzone said.

But “If we can keep that population down and have more space to work with” it would help limit exposure to the virus.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 665 positive tests Friday, up 157 from the 508 reported Thursday morning. There have been 13 deaths.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit

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