Clarence Dupnik is looking to win his ninth consecutive term as Pima County Sheriff. The 75-year-old has maintained the position as the county’s top law enforcement official for the last 32 years, and despite the various campaign signs around town reading “Dump Dupnik,” the incumbent isn’t planning on going anywhere.
But in order to keep his seat, Dupnik will need to navigate his way past another experienced candidate in Republican Mark Napier, who has an accumulated 28 years in law enforcement, 21 of which he spent in the Tucson Police Department.
When asked whether he thought Napier was qualified for the position, Dupnik said merely, “That’s for the voters to decide,” though he admitted he considers Napier to be the most qualified of the primary candidates.
And though there seems to be somewhat of a mutual respect between the two, they agree on very little when it comes to the role of a sheriff in law enforcement.
For Dupnik, the position has, and will likely continue to be, one in which he feels he must express his opinion on matters that he considers related to public safety.
In the past few years, Dupnik has become nationally known for his comments relating to the January 8 mass shooting, which he blamed on “vitriol political rhetoric,” as well as his stance on Senate Bill 1070, which he refused to enforce after claiming it promoted racial profiling.
Still, Dupnik said his department is responsible for turning over more illegal aliens than any other state or local agency in Arizona.
Dupnik, who has been willing to follow federal law relating to illegal immigration, said Napier “doesn’t understand” SB1070.
“All this does for law enforcement is complicate things,” said Dupnik. “It asked us to profile people and coerce the constitution. I knew what was going to happen when I spoke out about it, but it was time for someone to do that.”
In regards to the Jan. 8 shooting, Dupnik also defended his claims that public radio and news channels contribute to a divide between parties, and encourage individuals to target elected officials “as Jared Loughner did.”
Though unsure if the comments will hurt his chances for reeletion, Dupnik stands by his allegations, and, when it comes to this election, Dupnik said he will stick to the same simple strategy he has in years past.
“The recipe is just to do your job,” he said.
And while Napier’s platform questions whether the sheriff is indeed doing that, Dupnik claims his opponent is merely trying to get attention.
“If I do get engaged, they accuse me of politicking,” he said. “The fact of the matter is, I am engaged in the community, and I am engaged with all of law enforcement here as well.”
Dupnik said under his lead, he has created several new programs, to include a Counter Narcotics Agency, Border Crimes Unit, Regional S.W.A.T. team, and wireless integrated network, initiated after the September 11 attacks to improve communications between 29 various public safety agencies.
Dupnik has also overseen the more recent High Impact Offender Program, which targets predatory criminals in a concentrated fashion.
Down the road, Dupnik said he would also like to see an integrated information system for all of law enforcement within Pima County, as well as increased options when it comes to mental health awareness when “red flags are raised.”
“It just seems to me that everybody has thrown their arms in the air, including the professionals in mental health,” he said. “They say there is nothing else they can do, and I’m not so sure that is true. The problem is that we have laws that say you can only forcibly put someone into treatment if you can prove they are a danger to themselves and to someone else.”
In the case of Jared Loughner, Dupnik believes further mental health options could have prevented the mass shooting which killed six and injured 13, including former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
While Dupnik said he is ready to stand by his past controversial words and further debate Napier, he claims Napier is choosing unfair locations to do so.
“He wanted me to debate at a Picture Rocks conservative group, and they’ve already endorsed him,” said Dupnik. “What am I, stupid? He’s trying to get me to debate on some religious radio show, and the guy that would be conducting the debate has a bumper sticker for Napier on his car.”
Should future debates take place, one thing Dupnik may have to answer for is the unsavory behavior of some of his corrections officers, five of which attacked a man outside a downtown Tucson bar, reportedly unprovoked.
“It’s an aberration,” said Dupnik. “I’ve never seen an issue like this with law enforcement before. They just had too much to drink, and acted like the inmates they supervise.”
To date, the five officers involved in the attack have all been fired, and charged with felony assault.
For more information on Clarence Dupnik, visit reelectdupnik2012.com.