Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone announces he will not pursue 3rd term

Oct 2, 2023, 3:18 PM | Updated: 5:26 pm

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone announced Monday he is not pursuing a third term and will be departing the office in January 2024.

“In law enforcement, I think that you always have to have the plan to go in and make as much impact as you can in a period of time that is appropriate and clear the way for someone else to come in and improve on that,” Penzone said at a press conference.

“So as I said, I will not be pursuing a third term. As a matter of fact, I think it would be appropriate to depart from the office in January and clear the way so that during the last year of my term going into the election there aren’t distractions.”

He said it gives him the chance to pursue opportunities to serve the public in different ways.

Penzone said he will continue to work with his colleagues at Maricopa County and MCSO to ensure a smooth transition.

Penzone was originally elected to the position in 2016 when he topped longtime Republican Sheriff Joe Arpaio by more than 10 percentage points.

He did away with some of Arpaio’s controversial programs and policies, like the Tent City jail, which Penzone closed and tore down in 2017.

Penzone defeated Republican challenger Jerry Sheridan, who previously worked closely with Arpaio for more than 20 years, in the 2020 election.

Increasing accountability from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office

During the press conference, Penzone noted changes made during his tenure as sheriff. He started by mentioning the 2017 closure of the controversial Tent City jail, which was founded under his predecessor, Arpaio, in 1993.

“It’’s been some time now, but we shut down Tent City. That was ridiculous,” Penzone said. 

“It represented all the things that are wrong about incarceration and law enforcement. It was degrading and it tried to pass this message as though by disrespecting and mistreating inmates that suddenly would change behavior.”

As a result, Penzone said tax dollars were saved by the jail’s closure. 

“In my six and a half years and actually really six years of a fiscal budget,” he said. 

“I have returned over $90 million to the county general fund. That is being a good steward of taxpayer dollars and I don’t think you can lead any organization. Especially one that serves the public if you’re not committed to ensure that every taxpayer dollars spent appropriately in any additional dollars aren’t wasted.

Phoenix metro taxpayers have been on the hook for more than a quarter billion dollars from a 2013 racial profiling verdict over former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration crackdowns. 

Penzone went on to mention public safety changes including, the conversion of pink underwear to a readily accessible option for inmates.

Public safety changes

Penzone noted the creation of an internal auditioning system for thorough investigations of crimes against children, a school safety forum, the establishment of the Fugitive Apprehension Tactical Enforcement Unit and the management of civil protests. 

“We’ve seen more protests and civil disturbances in the last four or five years and maybe in since the 60s,” Penzone said. 

“And this office handled them flawlessly worked long hours with short staff and made sure that we respected the civil rights and the first amendment of everyone and even the Second Amendment in circumstances where people showed up armed while protecting people and protecting democracy.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Balin Overstolz-McNair and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone announces he will not pursue 3rd term