Latino community members ask Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to restore trust

Raul Piña, a member of a court-ordered Community Advisory Board, listens to people talk about the need to restore trust with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office at a forum. (Photo by Patricio Espinoza/Cronkite News)

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone shut down Tent City, an outdoor jail facility set up by his former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, earlier this year. (Photo by Patricio Espinoza/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone shut down Tent City but still allows immigration officials to deport undocumented detainees at county jails, according to members of the Latino community who say they are still recovering from the previous administration’s anti-immigration policies.

Penzone deserves praise for shutting down the outdoor jail facility, said Angeles Maldonado, a member of a Community Advisory Board set up under federal court order after Sheriff Joe Arpaio was accused of racial profiling. He later was found guilty of contempt of court.

But Maldonado said Penzone, who has been in office more than 100 days since defeating Arpaio, needs to do more to reach out to members of the community.

“I think the first step would be to have a forum, an open forum where he would listen to the community, to their voice, and talk, and him actually staying through the meeting,” Maldonado, an advisory board member and immigration rights organizer, said after a community forum this week.

Isabel Chaires, a former Tent City inmate, was among about 50 people who attended the forum. She had tears in her eyes. Charged with using a fake ID, she was pregnant during the three months she spent at the jail.

James Collins, director of community outreach for the sheriff’s office, attended the forum, where several speakers talked about the fear and mistrust many Latinos experienced during Arpaio’s six terms in office.

Collins said Penzone has launched four advisory committees.

“MCSO is actively meeting and working with leaders and residents of the affected communities to improve our relationship,” Penzone says in a statement after the meeting.

Maldonado said the sheriff’s committees should include members of the Latino community who lived through the Arpaio administration’s immigration and race-based policies.

The American Civil Liberty Union appointed members of the Community Advisory Board three years ago to help rebuild trust in the sheriff’s office and, according to the ACLU website, “gather concerns and provide feedback about MCSO policies and practices.”

(Video by Patricio G. Espinoza/Cronkite News)