Sheriff Paul Penzone of Arizona's Maricopa County to resign in January

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Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone announced Monday that he will resign in January, a year before his term ends.

Penzone said at a news conference that he decided to resign and not seek a third term so he could explore other possibilities in public service. He did not give further details.

"I think it would be appropriate to step down in January and clear the way so that during the last year of my term before the elections there are no distractions," Penzone said.

Penzone is credited with ending some of his predecessor Joe Arpaio's policies, which have been widely criticized as anti-immigrant and racist. The department manages the county jail and oversees law enforcement in the unincorporated areas of Arizona's most populous county.

After soundly defeating Arpaio in the 2016 election, Penzone tore down an open-air prison, nicknamed “Tent City,” that had been widely mocked..

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

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

During his 24 years in office, Arpaio called 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 was later partially overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States. .

A federal court order still requires the department to be overseen by a court-appointed monitor after a 2013 racial profiling verdict over Arpaio's immigration crackdown.

A federal judge found that the sheriff's office had profiled Latinos in patrols targeting immigrants, leading to massive court-ordered reviews of both the agency's trafficking operations and its internal affairs department.

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