Penzone won’t seek 3rd term as Maricopa County Sheriff, will step down in January

Penzone became Sheriff of Arizona’s most populous county in 2017 when he defeated then-Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Published: Oct. 2, 2023 at 1:09 PM MST|Updated: Oct. 2, 2023 at 5:06 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone says he will not seek a 3rd term and will be stepping down as Sheriff in January 2024.

“I have decided that I will not pursue a third term,” said Penzone during an emotional news conference Monday afternoon. “Not because I leave this office in any way, shape, or form disappointed; it has all been incredible. It is the greatest privilege and blessing that anyone could’ve asked for, especially in a profession like this.” Penzone said.

Penzone also announced he would be stepping down before his current term is up, “I think it’s appropriate for me to depart of the office in January and clear the way so during the last year of my term going into elections, there aren’t distractions. It gives me a chance to pursue some opportunities to serve the public in several ways and to do some things that present themselves as incredible options and opportunities.”

1/4/2017 -- Paul Penzone is publicly sworn in as Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff after beating former sheriff Joe Arpaio in the 2016 election.

Penzone became Sheriff of Arizona’s most populous county in 2017 when he defeated then-Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Prior to his role as Sheriff of Arizona’s most populated county, Penzone was an officer with the Phoenix Police Department for 21 years.

In the previous election, Penzone was the most popular politician in Maricopa County, getting more votes than both President Joe Biden and Senator Mark Kelly. He’s known for building public trust, shutting down “Tent City,” and helping pass Arizona legislation that increases accountability in deadly force cases. “In law enforcement, I think you always have to have the plan to go in and make as much impact as you can in a period of time that’s appropriate and then clear the way for someone else to come in and improve on that,” said Penzone.

It’s up to the County Board of Supervisors to find his replacement. Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo thanks the sheriff for his service and respects his decision to step down. Gallardo points out that Penzone took office during a time of turmoil within the agency and hopes the next person in the role continues to build trust in the community. “You have to be able to work with others. You have to be able to work with the board of supervisors, work with the community at large, work with communities of color,” said Gallardo.

By law, the appointed sheriff that takes Penzone’s place must be a Democrat, and Gallardo is looking for candidates who intend to run for re-election. He plans to ask Penzone for his insight as they search for the next sheriff. “I think he should be part of the appointment process. I think his opinions and thoughts are valued,” said Gallardo.

Gallardo said the board will start the appointment process right away and said anyone looking to apply should submit a letter of interest and resume to the clerk of the board.

Penzone: Federal oversight has ‘overstayed’

Sheriff Paul Penzone also spoke publicly about the federal oversight of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office led by Monitor Robert Warshaw. Arizona’s Family Investigates reported recently how the monitor has not had an in-person visit to Maricopa County in nearly four years, making his last visit in January 2020.

The oversight of the sheriff’s office comes from a 2007 lawsuit filed by Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres against then-sheriff Joe Arpaio, with the court finding that the sheriff’s office violated the constitutional rights of Latinos by racial profiling and conducting unlawful traffic stops.

In his press conference announcing his departure, Penzone said the department now is not the department it was in 2007.

“What happened then doesn’t happen now,” Sheriff Penzone said. “It’s a thing of the past. What is not a thing of the past is the quarter of a million dollars of taxpayer money that’s still being spent because of oversight that in my opinion, has overstayed.”

Arizona's Family recently reported howthe monitor has not had an in-person visit to Maricopa County in nearly four years, making his last visit in January 2020.

According to figures provided by Maricopa County, the county has spent $233 Million since 2008 in lawsuit costs and costs related to the years of federal monitoring. The money spent on the case in 2023 was the most spent since the case began.

“The federal court oversight is more concerned about internal punishment than it is about external public safety and that hurts the people of this community. When I have more people investigating internal affairs and compliance issues than I do crimes in our community, something is wrong.”

Sheriff Paul Penzone, Maricopa County

“I’ll be damned if I’ll do three terms under federal court oversight for a debt I never incurred and not be given the chance to serve this community in the matter that I could --- if you’d take that other hand from being tied behind my back,” Penzone said.

Arizona’s Family Investigates reached out to the federal monitor Robert Warshaw and the ACLU of Arizona for their response to Penzone’s statement about the federal oversight.

This is a developing story. Stay with Arizona’s Family for continuing coverage of this event.

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