Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone announces he won't seek re-election

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone announced that he would not seek a third term in a news conference on Monday.

Penzone said he would leave office in January in 2024. The Democratic sheriff was emotional at times during the announcement, thanking his wife and sons for all of their support.

Penzone has been the Sheriff of Maricopa County since 2016 when he defeated Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who held the job for 24 years.

He shared frustration with the federal oversight of his department stemming from Arpaio’s tenure in office. The department while under Arpaio’s leadership was found by the courts to be racially profiling Latinos. 

in 2022, Penzone was held in contempt of court by a federal judge in the same case as Arpaio for failing to take reasonable steps to comply with the order to overhaul the agency amid a backlog of 2,100 investigations.  The court wanted them cleared in 60 to 85 days.

Penzone filed an appeal at the beginning of this year.

Almost seven years later, Penzone says he has been trying to run his department with one hand tied behind his back.

He criticized federal court oversight that "depleted a considerable amount of resources in this office that could and should have been dedicated to public safety."

"The most recent decision where suddenly civilian investigators and professional standards, where I have to keep a minimum threshold, I don’t have the final say on who those investigators will be," Penzone said. "A guy who sits in North Carolina and hasn’t been here in three years - his team does. But I’m the one responsible for the work they do and the outcomes they produce - because if they don’t produce a certain outcome - then this county and this community pays more taxpayer dollars."

It will be up to the county Board of Supervisors to select an interim sheriff until a new one is elected. 

"But I do recognize this," the sheriff said. "I'll be damned if I do three terms under federal court oversight for a debt I never incurred and not be able to serve this community in the manner that I could if you took the other hand from being tied behind my back. Because the future without law enforcement doesn't look good."

Penzone was pressed by reporters about his future plans to run for political office, but skirted around the questions.

Maricopa County Democratic Party releases statement

The Maricopa County Democratic Party released the following statement, which includes:

The Maricopa County Democratic Party is grateful to Sheriff Paul Penzone for his dedication to public safety and his years of service to the community.

By winning election in 2016, he stopped the many illegal practices of the former Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who cost the county over $200 million in lawsuits, and terrorized the Latino community with his racial profiling roundups.

Sheriff Penzone ended the mistreatment of inmates in custody and instituted programs that reduced recidivism. He worked to clear a backlog of cases. Most importantly, he restored the integrity and the reputation of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office as a law enforcement agency dedicated to the protection of its citizens and the humane treatment of suspects in its custody.