I’m voting for Joe Arpaio for Maricopa County Sheriff. For those of you who have followed my writing over the years you’re probably thinking I’ve lost my mind or been bought off. Nope.
My vote will go to Arpaio because challenger Paul Penzone, a retired Phoenix police public relations sergeant, is no more qualified to be sheriff than Arpaio was when he was first elected in 1992.
And look at what that got us.
It’s time to get real about the role the sheriff plays in the grand scheme of Maricopa County law enforcement. A role that’s much different from the municipal police agencies that provide over 90 percent of the traditional policing services most of us have.
Of the nearly 4,000 sheriff’s office employees, only a small percentage answer calls and investigate crimes like our local police.
With a jail population close to 10,000 inmates, a number that makes the Maricopa County jail larger than many state prison systems, the vast majority of employees support the jail system and a laundry list of Constitutional responsibilities dictated by law.
The sheriff is responsible for far more than arresting law breaking in the unincorporated areas of the county, things that Penzone never experienced as a sergeant in Phoenix.
I’ve heard the argument that anyone is better than Arpaio. It just doesn’t hold water. The MCSO is broken. There are people there who have been doing it wrong for so long they don’t even know how to do it right. It’ll be a huge challenge for the person who is the next sheriff. A challenge that is no doubt over the head of someone who may have supervised a half-dozen people and has no experience at the executive level in law enforcement and corrections.
So why vote to keep Arpaio on office?
In talking with many in the know, for all intents and purposes Arpaio is nothing more than a figurehead at this point. He can kiss babies and ride in parades and that’s pretty much it.
With Arpaio on the bench the federal court and a monitoring team of experts who are fixing what’s broken are running the MCSO. I’m told they’re doing a first-class job of bringing MCSO back to prominence and excellence. I see no reason to do anything to interfere with that. And that’s what could happen if Penzone gets elected.
The other reason is, it’s just a matter of time before Arpaio leaves office. Either on his own or by force, he’s on the way out and when he’s gone the next sheriff will be selected by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors that will have the opportunity to set qualifications and select someone who is truly qualified to run one of the biggest sheriff’s offices in America. Hopefully at some point there will be a discussion about “Home Rule” and hiring a sheriff and not electing one.
Keeping Arpaio in place is the key to finishing the reforms started by the federal court and keeping yet another unqualified person out of the office of sheriff in our county.
And that’s why Joe gets my vote.
– Bill Richardson is a retired Mesa police detective.