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Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Holds Community Meeting In Guadalupe

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone addressed members of the town of Guadalupe on Wednesday evening. It was the most recent in a series of court-ordered community meetings resulting from the Ortega Melendres racial profiling case.

Penzone spoke to a gymnasium full of county employees and area residents at Frank Elementary School.

The sheriff asked for the community’s trust, which he admitted was seriously violated when his predecessor, former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, conducted his infamous raids and unconstitutional detentions in the area.

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio targeted the town with workplace raids that were later found unconstitutional.

Andres Arreola was born and raised in Guadalupe. He said  his community isn’t necessarily jaded against law enforcement, but it isn't warm to them yet either.

"It’s the fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me," Arreola said. "So it’s more a protective, understood reflective of history mentality.”

Arreola said the scars from the wrongs of the past are healing, but it will take time for the people here to trust the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) again.

Larry Sandigo is the chair of a Community Advisory Board created by the judge in the Melendres case. He said while MCSO is making progress in its performance benchmarks, winning back the trust of the people will take time.

"Trust is a matter of the heart," Sanidgo said. "At the end of the day, the community has to tell us whether they trust MCSO. It’s not something that MCSO can declare.”

Several people voiced concerns about MCSO’s continued cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

One woman asked Penzone how she could trust him after the previous administration handed her husband over to ICE.

Another speaker told the sheriff that he should not accept ICE in the jails, saying it was "damaging the root" of Penzone's efforts to regain trust.

"If there is a conflict between the law and justice — follow justice," the man said.

While Penzone said his department had stopped the practice of “courtesy holds,” he was still obligated to cooperate with federal agencies. The sheriff acknowledged that members of the community may not like the relationship but insisted he was operating within the bounds of the Constitution.

"The work is not done," Penzon said of his department's efforts at reform. "It is an ongoing process that has to be a fabric of the office."

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Jimmy Jenkins is a senior field correspondent at KJZZ and a contributor to NPR’s Election 2020 and Criminal Justice station collaborations. His work has been featured on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here and Now, The Takeaway and NPR Newscasts.Originally from Terre Haute, Indiana, Jenkins has a B.S. in criminology from Indiana State University and a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University.Much of his reporting has focused on the criminal justice system. Jenkins has reported on Tasers, body cameras, use of force, jail privatization, prison health care and the criminal contempt trial of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.