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MCSO Refuses to Change, Reveals Resigning Community Board Member

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Any faith we had that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office had started a new chapter of cooperation with the immigrant community was ripped to shreds this week. On August 8, Dr. Angeles Maldonado resigned as a member of the Community Advisory Board (CAB) that was set up to hold the MCSO accountable for its systematic racial profiling. 

Her letter of resignation reveals that “MCSO continues to date to racially profile people of color in Maricopa County” and that the CAB is “set up to fail.”

Judge G. Murray Snow, who oversaw the Melendres v. Arpaio racial profiling case, ordered the creation of the CAB in 2013. It consisted of three members: Maldonado, Viridiana Hernandez (now executive director of Center for Neighborhood Leadership) and Raul Pina (CEO of Dare2Dream Foundation). They were tasked with gathering information from the community about MCSO practices that continued to violate the court’s orders and relaying the evidence to the court for investigation and action.

On August 12, the Community Advisory Board and Justice That Works will be co-hosting a public “Hold the MCSO Accountable” forum in Phoenix

After Sheriff Paul Penzone replaced Joe Arpaio, many people hoped his leadership would close the book on a shameful chapter in metro Phoenix’s history. A chapter in which the public was invited to call a hotline to report suspected undocumented immigrants purely on the basis of their appearance. A chapter in which police officers followed day laborers around, waiting to pull them over for infractions as small as a cracked windshield, in order to demand to see their papers. A chapter in which workplace raids stole the futures of young, hardworking people and their families.

That has not happened, Maldonado writes in her letter: “Sheriff Penzone has displayed an incredibly antagonistic disregard for the CAB and our community. The CAB has been pushed around and stepped over by the new MCSO leadership, and we have had little access to documents or information about MCSO policies and operations.” 

Though Penzone closed Arpaio’s infamous Tent City jail, he has not removed Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers from local jails. 

“Our community is incredibly upset about this tactic, and sees it as a direct wink and nod to the old policies of local immigration enforcement maintained by Sheriff Arpaio,” states Maldonado. “We have advised Sheriff Penzone that so long as he continues to choose to allow ICE in its jails, many in the affected community will not trust this agency; because it results in the deportation of our families. Sheriff Penzone does not want to hear this advice and in fact has turned a blind eye to even acknowledge this as an issue.”

The MCSO has yet to try to reach out to the impacted community to… acknowledge the injustice that migrant and indigenous families were forced to accept from this law enforcement agency.

As we have reported, Penzone’s policy on ICE is unlikely to change in the future. The Trump Administration recently announced that law enforcement agencies must allow ICE in jails or they will be denied federal grant money.

The CAB was established in part to create trust between law enforcement and the community. And Penzone himself has said, “I will work to earn the trust and confidence of everyone in this community.”

However, Maldonado asserts, “the MCSO has yet to try to reach out to the impacted community to hold space and acknowledge the injustice that migrant and indigenous families were forced to accept from this law enforcement agency.”

Furthermore, she adds, “Through speeches and media rhetoric, Sheriff Penzone has said that he would not engage with people who are disrespectful, he has insinuated that we are unwilling to work with him, and he has attempted to use his own self-appointed Hispanic advisory boards to attempt to create a divide among our communities.” 

Maldonado says she will continue her fight outside of the CAB. Meanwhile, she prescribes two actions if Penzone is to initiate trust in the community and if the CAB is to become effective: 

1. “If [Penzone] cares at all to repair or build an image for himself as different and willing to comply with court orders, he needs to step back and respect where the community sits in the process.”

2. The CAB cannot continue as an unsupported, budget-less board dependent on volunteers. “There is no source of support for its success, and therefore [it] has been reduced to a symbolic gesture to check off the ‘we have the voice of the community included’ box.”

On August 12, the CAB and Justice That Works are co-hosting a “Hold the MCSO Accountable” forum. The event will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. at Sierra Vista Elementary School, 6401 S. 16th St., Phoenix. 

The forum will address the following questions: Why is the MCSO at under 50 percent compliance with the Melendres v. Arpaio court order? And when will Sheriff Penzone distance himself from Sheriff Arpaio’s legacy by ending MCSO’s collaboration with ICE?