Finding next Phoenix police chief shouldn’t be political, Sheriff Penzone says

May 4, 2022, 3:00 PM

(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Police Department)...

(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Police Department)

(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Police Department)

PHOENIX – Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said decision-makers for the city of Phoenix face a challenge now that they must replace Police Chief Jeri Williams.

“Politics gets far too involved in policing,” Penzone told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Wednesday.

“So when those responsible to make this decision go through the process, I just hope they’re objective and pragmatic and that it is not about political elements, it’s not about some kind of trying to send the ‘right’ message to a faction of people.”

Williams abruptly announced her retirement Tuesday, to go into effect in the summer.

The first female chief in the history of the Phoenix Police Department has been with the force for nearly 25 years and in charge for almost six years.

City Manager Jeff Barton said the search for an interim chief would be conducted externally and that a nationwide search for a permanent successor would be held later.

“It’s challenging because what you don’t want to do is … if you go outside and the person is not either familiar [with] or a good fit for the personality of our community, the personality of the Phoenix Police Department … it could be detrimental,” Penzone said.

“But if you stay inside, is it too familiar where you can’t get the changes done that you need.”

It’s critical, Penzone said, for the replacements to have good working relationships with the other law enforcement agencies in the Valley.

“You can drive 3 miles and go through four jurisdictions, so you have to have a healthy working relationship. If we lack that, then we are going to struggle in all aspects of what we’re trying to do for our communities,” he said.

Penzone, who has been friends with Williams since their rookie officer days, said choosing a candidate was about replacing “a senior police chief with someone who has the competency and the commitment to this community to just move everything forward. You can’t make it personal or partisan.”

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Finding next Phoenix police chief shouldn’t be political, Sheriff Penzone says