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MCSO Faces A Long Road To Compliance With Monitor

(Photo by Jimmy Jenkins)
Deputy Monitor Raul Martinez speaks about the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office at a community meeting in Gaudalupe.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has a long way to go before it’s in full compliance with court orders from the Melendres racial profiling case. A Deputy Monitor reported on the process Wednesday night at a community meeting in Guadalupe.

Raul Martinez is part of the group appointed by a federal judge to monitor MCSO’s progress. He was blunt. “The progress of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office up until now has been very slow, extremely slow,” Martinez said.

The Federal court has issued two sets of orders that lay out mandatory changes the Sheriff’s office has to make. Of the first 89 points, MCSO is only in compliance with 41. The Sheriff’s office has complied with none of the additional 123 changes issued last summer.

Sheriff Paul Penzone addressed the gathering of immigrants rights groups and members of the Latino community. He said his administration is fully committed to satisfying the court orders, but undoing the wrongs of his predecessor would take time.

"I'm asking you humbly for your patience," Penzone said. "So that we can work together and we can earn your trust through transparency, through our professionalism and through our ethics."

Sylvia Herrera was in attendance with members of Barrio Defense Committees. She’s been attending the Monitor reports for a year and a half and said it’s been a frustrating process.

“I don’t expect that anything’s changed other than the new Sheriff,” Herrera said. She was especially concerned with the closure of Tent City. Herrera said she is optimistic about Penzone but said he needs to be held accountable by pressure from the Latino community.

Representatives of the ACLU and the Department of Justice at the meeting said they had met with Penzone and were encouraged by his plans for compliance with the federal monitor.

Andre Segura is a senior staff attorney with the ACLU immigrants rights project. The ACLU has been closely monitoring the case and Segura said despite the slow progress, they're willing to give Penzone time to generate reform in his department.

"It's only been three weeks," Segura said of Penzone's time in office and as a defendant in the Melendres case. "We have a new Sheriff and new leadership within the agency. Much remains to be seen, but I think the communication we saw here tonight is a significant shift from the past."

Jimmy Jenkins was a producer and senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2014 to 2021.