“We are in this together.”
That was the sentiment shared by Sheriff Paul Penzone during the Representative Town Hall meeting held Friday, April 14 at the Civic Building (State Representative Noel Campbell was scheduled, but did not appear). More than 100 people were in attendance to hear the sheriff speak and to also address him during a question-and-answer session that lasted for 45 minutes.
Sheriff Penzone touched on topics and values important to him and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) going forward as he opened the meeting. He detailed what service and duty means to him, and how that led him into a life of law enforcement. Having a sense of pride in being able to protect his family and citizens is the epitome of service, according to the sheriff. He stressed the importance of transparency within the department for the good of the organization and the citizens. Days of doing things unnecessarily to make the news are gone, Sheriff Penzone declared.
“Our job is to keep you safe without being the center of your attention or your world,” said Penzone.
The budget for MCSO is 350 million dollars, and being accountable for making sure resources are used wisely is vital to the sheriff. Balancing that ideal and making up a staffing shortage are challenges that will be addressed. According to Penzone, the department is currently 80-100 deputies shy of being fully staffed, and there is a 15% deficiency across the department as a whole.
Questions from the audience introduced a variety of issues for the sheriff to address. Local concerns, such as speeding in Anthem, to larger, state and national issues were also on the minds of the residents in attendance.
Penzone stated that drug abuse is the core issue in a lot of crimes that take place in our community. The complexity of the issue makes finding a clear-cut solution difficult. Jail time versus rehab for offenders for example, and educating our youth to making better decisions are issues and steps that need to be addressed regarding drugs and crime, according to the sheriff.
In regards to the drug issue in our society, Penzone declared it is “the greatest epidemic that faces our families.”
An audience member asked the sheriff about the role of federal oversight within MCSO. Penzone detailed how there were 260 lawsuits and two court orders pending against the department when he took office. The court orders alone cost the department 60 million dollars over the past four years. Once the department satisfies certain compliance thresholds, the federal oversight will lessen and MCSO will be able to allocate money to more beneficial uses for the community.
The issue of gun control and guns in schools was also mentioned by an audience member. Penzone spoke about needing to end the polarizing nature of the debate regarding gun issues so that real progress can be made. While he believes strongly in the second amendment, he also stresses the importance of gun education and keeping guns away from criminals.
Penzone also addressed issues closer to home for Anthem residents, such as speeding, and staffing at the MCSO sub-station located inside the Civic Building. He plans on discussing these topics with members of his staff that are stationed in the Anthem area.
Finally, Sheriff Penzone made a surprise announcement that recently departed captain Kip Rustenberg, who had just a week prior been reassigned to major crimes, was being promoted to Deputy Chief. Rustenberg was in attendance and was pleasantly surprised by the impromptu announcement.
The next Representative Town Hall will take place May 12 at the Civic Building. Speakers will include Julie Murphree, Communication and Organization Director for Arizona Farm Bureau and Jennifer Toth, Director of Transporation for MCDOT. The Town Hall begins at 9 a.m. and is open to all residents.
Visit the calendar for a list of future Town Halls and the speaker list.