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Napier: Time for a new sheriff

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Napier: Time for a new sheriff

When we think about the upcoming election many of us have a strong desire to replace Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. However, we might take an isolated view of why. It is easy to point to some statements he made in January 2011 to inflame passions for his being voted out of office. However, this alone will not serve to resonate effectively with Independents and moderate Democrats. There also exists a flawed perception that "Anybody but Dupnik" can win in November. Our challenge is to craft the message about why we need a new sheriff and then to present all voters of Pima County, not just the Republicans, with a credible option to his reelection. Let us make no mistake, he is not going to be easy to defeat.

January 2011: Clearly, Sheriff Dupnik should not have engaged in his irresponsible heated political rhetoric in the national media. This is a great county and wonderful state; we are not a "Mecca for bigots and racists." It shocks the conscious that the lead law enforcement officer of our county would use such a tragic event to denigrate the very people he serves. However, this is only part of the story. By blaming right-wing media for enticing the suspect and declaring him mentally ill our sheriff effectively compromised the prosecution of the case. Keep in mind that at the time he made these statements no one, especially not Sheriff Dupnik, had even spoken to the suspect. Shouldn't the sheriff have been on the scene providing leadership and support to the complex criminal investigation? Maybe he could have been on the scene providing simple support to his deputies. Imagine the trauma even a tenured law enforcement officer would have felt at this scene. Perhaps, he could have stepped forward as a leader of our county. He could have discussed in the national media the amazing inter-agency cooperation in the investigation occurring at the scene, or the heroic life-saving efforts of the doctors and nurses at University Medical Center or how this terrible violence was a shocking anomaly in an otherwise good community. Finally, maybe he could have offered a simple prayer for the victims struggling for their lives and their families. No; Sheriff Dupnik failed us in January of 2011.

SB 1070: Sheriff Dupnik declared this law unconstitutional, racist and stated he would not enforce it. While this is wrong and clearly not how he should conduct himself as sheriff, it is not the whole story. The sheriff is not a Supreme Court justice. Further, it is not for him to selectively decide which laws to enforce and which to ignore. Absent there being a clear and convincing breech of the Constitution, the sheriff is bond by oath to enforce the law and Constitution. Was there a clear breech of the Constitution with respect to SB 1070? No, there was not. There are 12 provisions in SB1070. Eight of the 12 were not challenged. The remaining four went before the Supreme Court. Three of the four were not upheld by the Court. The forth, addressing the authority of officers to question immigration status was unanimously up held by the Court. This was the provision our sheriff was most upset about. So, nine of 12 provisions of SB 1070 were either not challenged or upheld by the Court, that is 75 percent of the law being affirmed… that sounds more like a victory, rather than a defeat of the law to me. As for it being racist and leading to racial profiling, a Supreme Court justice asked the Solicitor General of the United States if the challenge of the law had anything to do with racial profiling; he had to admit it did not. Sheriff Dupnik did not provide effective leadership on this issue. He also sent a terrible message to political leaders in Phoenix and even Washington DC with respect to how we view border security in southern Arizona.

The invisible leader: When did you last see our sheriff? When was he last in uniform speaking out about public safety issues in our county? When did his subordinates and line-level personnel last see him and hear him discuss appreciation for their efforts and his vision for the department? Leadership must be seen to be effective. Sheriff Dupnik is largely invisible to his constituents and to his department. We regularly see the sheriffs of Pinal, Cochise and Maricopa County in the media and actively leading their departments. Public safety in Pima County and the effectiveness of the Sheriff's Department are adversely impacted because our sheriff has chosen to be an invisible leader.

Interagency cooperation: Sheriff Dupnik has decided to isolate his department from the rest of Southern Arizona. He does not have a cooperative working relationship with the other Southern Arizona sheriffs (Pinal, Cochise, Santa Cruz, Maricopa). Our sheriff should be actively engaging the other sheriffs on border security and border crime issues. It would be a powerful message to Washington, D.C., if all the sheriffs in Southern Arizona were speaking with one voice about border issues and the need for the federal government to do its job. Provide us resources and secure the border. Instead, we have the sheriff with the largest exposure to the Mexican border silent on border issues or worse minimizing their importance. Sheriff Dupnik does not actively work with the chiefs of police in Pima County. Criminals do not know if they are in Marana, Pima County, Oro Valley or Tucson. Active communication between our sheriff and the chiefs would lead to information and resource sharing, and enhanced public safety. Our sheriff does not serve as a leader being the lead law enforcement officer of the county.

Resources: Our sheriff is not an active voice ensuring that his department and his deputies have the equipment and staffing they need. The budget for the department has risen consistently over the past six years. The staffing for the department's primary functions, investigations, operations and detention has not. We need to ensure that our tax dollars are being spent appropriately. The Sheriff's Department staffing is at about 1.46 deputies per thousand population. This is low, much lower than Maricopa County, the City of Tucson, Oro Valley, etc. The sheriff should be providing leadership over the fiscal resources the taxpayers provide the department and at the same time being a strong advocate for the needs of the department. Our sheriff does not provide leadership over his fiscal resources and he does not advocate effectively for the needs of his department.

Summary: It's time for a new sheriff. I will never attack Sheriff Dupnik, claim he is a bad person, etc. We as conservative Republicans should remain above that. However, I will say for all the reasons articulated above Sheriff Dupnik has either lost the will or lost the ability to effectively lead the Pima County Sheriff's Department. This is not about an isolated incident or some obscure facet of leadership. It is a systemic failure of effectiveness that compromises public safety in Pima County and the pride we should all feel toward the Pima County Sheriff's Department. The brave men and women that work there deserve better, the taxpayers deserve better and the citizens of Pima County deserve better.

Our challenge is to put forward the most qualified, experienced and educated candidate possible to challenge Sheriff Dupnik. History tells us that if we do not, we will not win. We are fortunate that five good men have stood up and answered the call to serve Pima County. It is up to the voters to decide who is most qualified and who will be the most credible candidate to face off against Sheriff Dupnik in the fall. The Pima County Sheriff's Department is a complex department that employs almost 1,500 employees and consumes more than $120 million of our tax dollars. Leading that department effectively is no small task. Moreover, we have to convince the Independents and moderate Democrats that our candidate is sufficiently experienced and educated to lead the department. We will have a challenge on our hands in November. If we make our message clear and select the right candidate we can win; because it is in fact time for a new sheriff.

Republican Mark Napier was elected as Pima County Sheriff in 2016.

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