Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Employee Charged With Child Abuse

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Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone
A Maricopa County Sheriff's Office deputy service aide has been arrested and charged with child abuse, prompting Sheriff Paul Penzone, who's up for reelection in November, to publicly denounce the alleged conduct.

Deputy service aides are non-sworn law enforcement personnel who respond to low-priority calls for service. They don't carry weapons or have arrest powers. 

On September 2, the aide, Desman Brown, was arrested by officers with the Goodyear Police Department on charges of child abuse and aggravated assault. Brown allegedly struck his 7-month-old infant daughter on the face with his hand, leaving a large bruise, according to court records.

Officers responded to Sunrise Preschool in Goodyear on August 25, where they met with the infant's mother and father, who reported the bruise and claimed that they believed that a staffer at the preschool caused it.

Through interviews and surveillance footage, investigators learned that no bruises had been observed on the child until she was picked up by Brown, who didn't report any injuries at the time. Staff at the preschool didn't report any injuries or incidents that could have caused it during the course of the day.

That day, Brown waited with his daughter in his car in the parking lot for 40 minutes until her mother was off work at the preschool. Once the mother arrived, they stayed in the car in the parking lot for another 30 minutes before leaving. Later, they arrived at a friend's house, where the friends noticed the bruise, and told the parents to contact the police. The couple eventually went back to the preschool and met the officer. The friends would later tell investigators that Brown was reluctant to contact police and had to be convinced to do so.

Both Brown and the child's mother told investigators that they didn't notice any bruise until they arrived at the friend's house. But the mother also said that when she met Brown in the car, their daughter had been screaming and crying. She had wanted to console their daughter in the back seat, but Brown insisted she sit in the front. They got into a heated argument, during which Brown allegedly said that he was sick of her and the baby. The mother said that she never saw Brown strike the child.

But it was enough for investigators to conclude that Brown hit his kid.

"It is evident that this injury was caused to the victim after having been picked up by Desman Brown ... and prior to the victim's mother arriving at the vehicle in the parking lot," reads a probable cause statement. "The victim was in Desman Brown's direct care during this time."

Brown, who graduated from the Deputy Service Aide Academy in June 2019, told investigators that he didn't do it.

Sheriff Penzone apparently wanted to get out ahead of the news that one of his employees faced criminal charges and issued a statement about the arrest.

"As has always been my position, I am intolerant of actions which are in conflict with our values in the law. Protection of children has always been a top priority and I expect our employees to be leaders in this community in keeping children safe," he said in a statement. "Any actions in conflict with these expectations will not be tolerated and all people should [be] held to the same standard of conduct under the law."

"As is required to ensure due process is followed, we have placed this employee on administrative leave pending the criminal and internal investigations," Penzone added. "I will take the appropriate action should the allegations be substantiated.”