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Justice Department, ACLU Seeking Contempt Hearing Against MCSO

The Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union are seeking a contempt hearing in a long-running court case against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

They want Sheriff Paul Penzone to explain why the average time for completing internal investigations has grown to more than a year longer than state law allows.

Penzone is under a federal court order to revamp internal affairs.

Lawyer Casey Arellano with the ACLU of Arizona said it sets a maximum deadline of 85 days for the Sheriff’s Office to do an in-house investigation. This is roughly half the time given by state law. But the average time it takes the Sheriff’s Office to finish an internal probe has grown to 552 days.

“People who file complaints against MCSO are not getting the due process and the justice that they both need, deserve and are entitled to under the law,” said Arellano.

She said there is an “egregious backlog” of internal affairs cases at the Sheriff’s Office, and the community needs answers.

“For why this is the case and why they shouldn’t be held in contempt for letting get to this point,” said Arellano.

The Sheriff’s Office said the agency was almost totally compliant with the internal affairs order as of September 2020.

Lawyers get 14 days to file a response.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.