Maricopa County Sheriff: Jerry Sheridan wants to repair law enforcement’s relationship with the public

The Constitution, Jerry Sheridan says, “protects every person. Doesn’t matter what political party they are, what race they are, what gender they choose.” (Photo courtesy of Jerry Sheridan campaign)

Candidate name: Jerry Sheridan
Political affiliation: Republican
Position sought: Maricopa County Sheriff
City of residence: Phoenix
Age: 62
Career: 40 years of law enforcement experience, including serving as former chief deputy for Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

With the election just days away, Cronkite News is profiling candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot.

If elected, would you change the level of community oversight of your deputies?

Sheridan said he has has seen both the positives and negatives of deputies getting involved in their communities. As a young man in training four decades ago, he got to meet all sorts of people on various police beats. He sees this as an opportunity to strengthen relations between law enforcement and the community. On the flip side, he sees the relationship between law enforcement and minority communities as an area that needs improvement.

“One of the things that needs to be repaired is the relationship that Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has with the Hispanic community,” he said. “And I plan on doing that by meeting, at least in the very beginning, with church leaders of the Hispanic community and Black community, to get out there and try and tell them, ‘Look, I’m here. I work for you.’ My motto is ‘A sheriff for all citizens.'”

How would you address racial disparities in terms of policing?

The Constitution is like scripture, he said.

“The Constitution is the supreme law of the land,” he said. “And the Constitution protects every person. Doesn’t matter what political party they are, what race they are, what gender they choose. It protects everyone.”

Training deputies in constitutional literacy is the key to addressing these disparities. Sheridan wants that knowledge applied above all else when deputies are in the field. As a teacher himself – he has taught several law enforcement classes at community colleges – he sees the classroom as an essential component in reducing racial profiling. If elected, he said he would work with constitutional experts to create a lesson plan that reflects the Constitution’s ideals.

What is the greatest issue Arizona residents face? If elected, how would you address it?

Sheridan said public safety has always been one of his top priorities, and it’s a driving issue this election cycle on both sides of the political spectrum.

He specifically addressed the treatment of people of color as a critical factor. According to his campaign website, many of his policies aim to eliminate the idea of “us vs. them.” Reestablishing the idea of law enforcement and citizens cooperating as a community partnership, regardless of orientation, is a pillar of Sheridan’s platform.

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If asked by the president, would you send deputies to polling locations to provide security for elections?

Sending deputies to polling stations is common and nothing new, said Sheridan, who worked with elections officials while on the force.

“That’s been in place for as long as I can remember.”

He said he would be willing to help in any way he could to ensure both the security of polling stations and the safety of voters.

What other issues are important to you and your campaign?

The public’s falling opinion of police officers, he said, has caused officer morale to spiral out of control across the country, which makes their jobs even more difficult. He sees low morale as a catalyst for insubordinate officers, which can lead to more incidents like those that ignited protests against police misconduct since the May death of George Floyd.

Sustained, meaningful communication with leadership across the county is a solution, he said. Forming a personal connection with as many deputies as possible would be the first item on Sheridan’s agenda.

“When I take over officially as the sheriff on January 1 at zero, zero, zero one hours and drive around to the various patrol districts. I’ll meet with the deputies and tell them there’s a new sheriff in town. And I will also stop in at the five jails that we have and let them know the same thing.”

What in your past work, political or volunteer experience makes you a better candidate to hold this office?

Sheridan, who was chief deputy for Sheriff Joe Arpaio, said he’s one of the most qualified candidates for county sheriff in Arizona history.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in public safety administration and a master’s in organizational management. He has held nearly every position, from deputy sheriff to chief deputy to teacher. He also considers his 12 years overseeing the county’s jail systems a badge of honor.

“The reason that’s important is 75% of the staff at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office work in detention. A lot of people that want to run for sheriff, including the current sheriff, probably never set foot inside the jail system, other than to maybe book somebody.”

On the differences between himself and his opponent, Sheriff Paul Penzone, Sheridan is blunt.

“He doesn’t have that command level experience, and that’s what sets me apart. It’s the leadership.”

What’s a personal challenge you’d like to overcome?

Sheridan said his foray into politics has been a difficult but welcome challenge. In moving up the ranks of law enforcement, he said sheriff was the next logical step in his career.

But this is his first run for elected office.

“To compete for that position, you have to become a politician. I don’t like politicians generally.”

Sheridan hopes staying true to his values will play to his advantage.

Please share a quote or advice that you live by

Sheridan wants to do right by everyone, but he also has to do right by himself.

“I have to be proud of the person that looks back at me in the mirror every morning.”

His goal is to do the right things for Maricopa County and America.

“As long as I do that, I will be very happy.”

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