The Fountain Hills sheriff’s substation captain was replaced Monday amid resident complaints about poor communication.
Members of a citizen advisory committee cited a December incident when a carload of kids drove around Fountain Hills shooting out scores of windows. The phones of 17 Block Watch captains sat silent.
With calls from the sheriff ’s substation, the Block Watch captains could have been watching for the car, said a member of the town’s Law Enforcement Advisory Committee.
"There are times you need to ask questions, and there are times you need to get answers," said John Turner, a panel member. "This is something that needs to be addressed."
Capt. John Kleinheinz will serve as interim commander until a permanent captain is selected by the town manager.
Kleinheinz succeeds Capt. Scott Penrose, who has been off duty for four months, including three weeks in which he traveled to Russia to adopt three children and the past month when he has been out sick.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio brushed off criticism that his department is unresponsive to Fountain Hills residents.
"This (committee) has no authority over the sheriff’s office," he said. "It’s just a citizens’ group. . . . They don’t advise the sheriff. Nobody advises this sheriff. I’m elected."
Residents said questions about Penrose’s absence went unanswered.
"They didn’t know whether he was coming back tomorrow, next week, whenever," committee head Phil Gaziano said.
Arpaio claimed he was never contacted about Penrose’s extended absence by Gaziano.
"If he’s got a big problem, he ought to talk to the sheriff," Arpaio said. "I run this organization, including Fountain Hills."
Speeding and traffic problems are two of the top issues residents want addressed by the sheriff.
"We feel that there needs to be more law enforcement," Turner said. "There are speeding problems here, traffic problems here. We’ve discussed this several times with the Sheriff’s Department. . . . Even though it’s just our opinion, we feel things haven’t changed around here."