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Maricopa County Attorney candidates pitch voters on systemic reform

(Campaign Photos)

PHOENIX – The candidates for Maricopa County Attorney are pitching voters to elect them to the office to see systemic reform in the nation’s third largest public prosecutorial agency.

Republican Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel and Democratic candidate Julie Gunnigle are running to be the first female elected as the top prosecutor role in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

Adel was previously appointed to the role in October 2019 after former Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery was promoted to the Arizona Supreme Court.

“We have made a tremendous amount of progress this year, despite the pandemic,” Adel told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “When I was appointed, I told the board of supervisors that I wanted to look at this like how can we reduce people going into jails and prisons where they’re institutionalized and they come out and they’re re-victimizing.”

Gunnigle, who currently runs a civil practice in the Valley, said if she’s elected to the position, she plans to reform the criminal justice system in a way that will save the taxpayers money, make the community safer and provide transparency and accountability.

“I bring to this office a vision of good government that spends tax payer money wisely,” Gunnigle told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “I want to transform this office into one that’s tough and smart and fair. In my view, that means we prioritize crimes of violence, crimes that target women, children and our seniors, human trafficking and public corruption.”

Both Adel and Gunnigle have campaigned that the Maricopa County judicial system needs to be reformed so that its limited resources can be properly put to use.

Adel, who’s held the office for 13 months, said her policies have focused on instructing prosecutors to look at the offender instead of the offense.

“If we’re able to treat the offender and not the offense, then we can identify those people who want to do better and be better, so they go into an evidence-based program with a curriculum for their specific needs,” Adel said.

Gunnigle has advocated that her plan will keep the community safer and her office would only prosecute the most severe cases. She noted that when counties over-incarcerate, it does more harm than good.

“When you over-incarcerate communities, what you’re doing is you’re taking folks out of the work force, you’re taking people from their family environments, you’re taking them out of their communities and you’re placing them in situations where they’re not earning an income and they’re not being productive,” Gunnigle said.

Another component of the candidates’ campaigns has been working to provide accountability and transparency for the community with the criminal justice system and policing.

Adel has previously advocated for body-worn cameras for all police officers in the county and for more training when it comes to de-escalation and use of force tactics in departments.

“I believe that keeping communities safe is my number one priority and it is the number one priority of law enforcement,” Adel said. “But, I believe in order for us to achieve that, there has to be three components that go together. You can’t pick and choose.”

Adel said those three components are: well-funded law enforcement agencies that are properly trained, community services for those who face behavioral issues and a prosecution office that will be fair and hold people accountable.

Gunnigle said the two important things that will help provide better transparency with the public is the prompt release of body-camera footage and giving the public access to data, which could ultimately lead to the creation of better policy.

“Body-cam footage should be promptly released in cases that involve an officer’s body-worn camera, and that’s part of a day-one transparency initiative that we need to have coming out of our county attorney’s office,” Gunnigle said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Kinnerup contributed to this report.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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