Thomas Agnos is a former Assistant Chief of Police in Phoenix who focused on change within the Office. Aiming toward a metropolitan police management style, he encouraged training, initiated a tuition reimbursement program and looked to the day when college degrees would be required of all command staff. Interestingly, upon election, Sheriff Agnos departed from the normal Sheriff’s prerogative of immediately dismissing all previous political appointees. He allowed some appointees to compete for permanent positions within the Office. Sheriff Agnos appointed a management team of retired Assistant Chiefs from the City of Phoenix Police Department, with whom he had served before his election to Sheriff.
Sheriff Agnos is credited with bringing a high standard of law enforcement ethics and performance to the Office during his term of office. Agnos gained control of runaway overtime, meeting his budget goals during each year of his administration. He brought the office to full staffing; established a rigid table of organization, quietly instituted 100% pay for all employees injured on the job -which was adopted county-wide- and gained the County Board of Supervisor’s approval for a long lasting step pay plan for deputies and detention officers. He did not allow command officers to work off duty jobs or take prisoner trips ensuring that command officers could not use their rank to influence the decision about who would be given the jobs or trips.
Unfairly, Sheriff Agnos was publicly blamed for investigative deficiencies in a mass murder investigation, the Buddhist Temple Murders, and he lost his bid for re-election. Sheriff Agnos’ Chief Deputy, well known within the Office as having a tyrannical personality, was most likely the reason Agnos was unable to rally employee support during the election.
In 2004, Former Maricopa County Sheriff Tom Agnos was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his West Valley back yard.
Agnos’ wife, Shirley, told authorities her husband had been battling terminal cancer.
Shirley Agnos asked the Sheriff’s Office to release the following statement: “The physical pain Tom experienced only comes close to the pain he felt watching me suffer. We had a 43-year long, wonderful, loving marriage. He did not want to put me through additional pain.”