Penzone: Public safety remains MCSO’s top priority during virus outbreak
PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone on Tuesday described how he and his department balance policing crimes and managing public health amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Penzone told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad that while precautions are being taken in light of the health crisis, it is the primary job of Maricopa County officers to preserve public safety first and foremost.
“At the end of the day, when there is an urgent need that involves public safety response … public safety is always the greater threat to us oftentimes than the public health issue that we’re dealing with,” Penzone said.
“We’re going to be thoughtful, we’re going to be professional but we’re going to do our jobs.”
Penzone added that he has directed MCSO to extended various department policies through June including having those in administrative roles continue to work from home, enhanced sanitation measures and ensuring that deputies utilize face masks.
These measures have helped limit county jail inmate coronavirus cases to two, according to the sheriff.
Regarding restaurants or bars that have opened early or are not adhering to public health guidelines, Penzone says his office will take physical enforcement action as a last resort.
“I’ve told my deputies … We will only take enforcement actions when we have no other choice,” Penzone said.
“If we believe there is a violation of the governor’s order, which has pretty much run its course, we’ll write a report, we’ll take some video documentation and we’ll submit it to the prosecutor’s office.
“There’s the difficulty … How much time do we dedicate and focus solely on responding to calls for service that relate to criminal activity, and how much should we be the tip of the spear when it comes to public health safety because of a pandemic.”
Penzone added that residents should set an example by being difference-makers within their communities when it comes to public health — but if they choose not to, MCSO has limited options.