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Tucson police pulled from poll sites over intimidation concerns

(Facebook Photo/Tucson Police Department)

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The Tucson Police Department has announced officers will no longer provide security at early voting sites after the city received complaints about police presence and concerns over voter intimidation.

Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez was notified Tuesday by the company that handles off-duty officer management that the city instructed the company to withdraw the officers from the pool hired for polling site security, the Arizona Daily Star reported. Rodriguez said she did not hear from the city until Thursday.

Rodriguez said she hired off-duty police officers to monitor polling sites at all of the county’s early voting locations after receiving safety complaints from poll workers regarding poll watchers. She said large groups, some from out-of-state, have chanted, watched and pestered people at voting sites while remaining outside the 75-foot buffer.

“I hired police because I cannot control all of these organizations who are passionate in their beliefs,” Rodriguez said. “My job is to protect the people who want to exercise their right to vote in a peaceful manner. I am also trying to protect my employees who are temporary workers.”

Mayor Regina Romero said the decision was made with City Manager Michael Ortega and Police Chief Chris Magnus after several organizations addressed Rodriguez and Pima County Elections Department Director Brad Nelson in a letter calling police presence “intimidating.”

“It’s important that we balance providing a safe voting experience with ensuring voters do not feel intimidated by an overt police presence,” Romero said, adding that Rodriguez’s plan does not strike this balance.

The state secretary of state’s guidance on polling place conduct and preventing voter intimidation also suggests having uniformed law enforcement personnel at a voting location could intimidate voters.

Rodriguez disagreed, arguing that every other jurisdiction in the county expressed support for the officers’ presence and that the public has given her office overwhelmingly positive feedback.

“For her to take a political stand because she disagrees with me is a disservice to the voters in Pima County,” Rodriguez said of the mayor. “Regina Romero has never conducted an election. This is my seventh presidential election. They have absolutely no knowledge of what it takes to do and conduct an election and the possible things you need to prepare for.”

The Tucson Police Department said in a statement that it has adjusted its plans, and will instead have officers roving the area of polling locations to respond to any disturbances, KOLD-TV reported.

Tucson Police Officers Association President Tony Archibald said he was disappointed with the decision.

“While we disagree with the decision to cancel security jobs, we want everyone to feel safe as they cast their vote,” he said.

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