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Maricopa County Sheriff Penzone Accuses Legislators Of Playing Politics With Public Safety

The newly proposed state budget would remove significant funding for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

The budget would strip $1.6 million in funding from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for a gang and immigration task force. Penzone called the cut an absolutely partisan move by a few elected officials.

The sheriff wouldn’t call anyone out by name, but Democrats at the statehouse have accused Republicans of targeting Penzone for taking a softer approach toward immigration than his predecessor, Joe Arpaio.

Penzone said the loss of funding would impact operations in the community and behind bars "where we have, I assure you, the highest population of any county of drug dealers and gang members in our jails,” Penzone said at a press conference Thursday evening.

RELATED: Arizona Budget Proposal Strips Funding From Maricopa County Sheriff Penzone

Maricopa was the only county to face the funding cut. Penzone said he was not consulted by lawmakers on the issue before the budget plan was announced but he has since reached out to several state legislators on both sides of the aisle.

"We have men and women that put their lives on the line every day to fight in this effort," Penzone said. "Those responsible to determine how dollars are allocated do not have the expertise that we have.”

The sheriff said he did not anticipate layoffs but the cut would impact the way he allocates resources within the department.

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