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Sheriff Paul Penzone of Arizona’s Maricopa County says he’s stepping down a year early in January

PHOENIX (AP) – Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone announced Monday that he will resign in January, a full year before his term ends.

Penzone said at a news conference that he has decided to step down rather than seek a third term in order to explore other possibilities in public service. He did not elaborate.

“I think it is appropriate for him to step down in January and clear the way so that there is no distraction during the final year of his term leading up to the election,” Penzone said.

Mr. Penzone is credited with ending some of the policies of his predecessor, Joe Arpaio, who were widely criticized as anti-immigrant and racist. The department operates county jails and oversees enforcement in unincorporated areas of Arizona’s most populous county.

After overwhelmingly defeating Arpaio in the 2016 election, Penzone demolished a widely derided open-air prison known as “Tent City.”

Mr. Penzone, a Democrat, defeated another Republican challenger in 2020 who had served at the department under Mr. Arpaio, also a Republican.

But Penzone said at a news conference that the department remains under a “dark cloud” from Arpaio’s tenure.

During his 24 years in office, Arpaio dubbed himself “America’s toughest sheriff” and in 2010 became a lightning rod for resistance to Arizona’s so-called “show me your papers” law, which later became the nation’s highest law. Partially reversed by the court. .

After a 2013 racial profiling verdict over Mr. Arpaio’s immigration enforcement, a federal court order still requires the department to be monitored by court-appointed monitors.

A federal judge has concluded that the sheriff’s office has been profiling Latinos in its immigration-targeted patrols, leading to a major court-ordered overhaul of the agency’s transportation operations and internal affairs division.

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