Sheriff Paul vs. Sheriff Joe: 7 Things Different About the New MCSO

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone
Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone
Stephen Lemons

It has been exactly 8,803 days since the last time a Maricopa County Sheriff could boast about his accomplishments in his first 100 days in office.

So there was no small sense of occasion when the new incumbent, Sheriff Paul Penzone, took the opportunity Wednesday at the Arizona Grand Resort. Technically, he’s been in office 95 working days or 137 total days, so he’s either premature or late, depending on how you roll. But who’s counting?

Penzone called the occasion “an opportunity to tell the story of who the MCSO is and where it’s going,” which he delivered before about 130 khaki-clad deputies, other employees, and community leaders.

In a milestone usually reserved for U.S. presidents and state governors, Penzone ticked off a list of achievements and laid out his vision for an embattled sheriff’s office trying to redefine itself as “OneMCSO.”

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The message was of unity, professionalism, and pride in an organization Penzone said he wanted to make one of the most respected in the country.

“We are never going to be about bells and whistles. We are going to be about investments and outcomes,” he said.

“My goal for today was not to show you a report card. It was to show you a lens of the future of the potential of this organization,” Penzone said.

Much more modest than his predecessor, Sheriff Joe Arpaio. We aren’t so subtle, nor shy. So here are seven highlights in the department under Sheriff Paul:

Tent City: He closed it, saving $4.5 million. Penzone said he’s relocated about half the inmates, sooner than expected. The other half will be rehoused in the upcoming months as MCSO figures out where to place work-furlough inmates. Longer term, he hinted he might convert Tent City into a place with more humane conditions for impounded animals and set up a program for inmates to nurture them.

Violent Fugitives: Since January 1, MCSO’s new violent offender fugitive unit has jailed 40 violent felons. Bear in mind, deputies face a backlog of 30,000 arrest warrants for felonies, not all of them violent. “If you want to stop the next crime spree, you have to stop the guy responsible for the last crime spree.” He wants to team up with private donors to help pay rewards for tipsters to catch fugitives.

Crime Analysis: It’s not sexy, but it’s important. Penzone said MCSO had no crime analysis team, so “had no baseline” and was “flying blind.” He has created one, noting, “We had no program to evaluate crime rates.”

Legal Costs: Penzone dismantled MCSO’s reliance on outside legal counsel, which he said has saved $1.5 million.

Community Outreach: The MCSO has organized or attended 225 community events since the beginning of 2017. That’s a bigger deal that it sounds, because federal monitors are still in place making sure the agency continues to clean up its civil rights record. Not coincidentally, leaders of African-American and Latino advisory panels spoke at the event on a recorded video. They expressed gratitude. Penzone told them: “The men and women you see here? They want to get it right.”

Dope: In combating the epidemic of addiction to opioid drugs, Penzone noted MCSO has teamed up with 86 other agencies and organizations.

Audits: MCSO brought in help from the Arizona Office of the Auditor General to establish internal audits. Penzone said the agency had no modern system for tracking its own inventory and property.


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