Running for Pima County Sheriff, Mark Napier was dominant in the primary election against his four Republican opponents, pulling in more than 43 percent of the total 66,662 votes cast, and defeating his closest opponent, Terry Frederick, by more than 18,000 votes.
While the sound victory was no doubt a confidence booster for Napier, the 21-year veteran of the Tucson Police Department has another challenge ahead: defeating incumbent Democrat Clarence Dupnik, who has never lost an election in his 32 years as county sheriff.
But there’s no fear in Napier’s voice. He stands firm that change needs to find its way into the Sheriff’s Department, and he is confident he is the right person to bring it.
If elected, Napier said he would be an engaged leader in the community and within the department, areas he claims Dupnik has failed.
“The sheriff should be engaged with the people,” said Napier. “It’s a way for the sheriff to understand the nature of community problems. Internally, the sheriff needs to be seen by his subordinates very frequently in uniform, because that sets a good example to the line level people.”
Napier cited the problem the County recently had when 10 of its correctional officers were placed on administrative leave (five of which were charged with assault), following a reportedly unprovoked attack outside a downtown Tucson bar.
“We need a sheriff that is going to be much more visible in the corrections area, and more visible with his deputies and at the substations around town,” he said.
Napier said as sheriff, not only would he become involved with various community groups, the media, and chambers, he would also be readily accessible to the general public.
“If you go Sheriff Dupnik’s reelection website, there is absolutely no way to contact him,” said Napier. “There is no phone number or email address, and you get the same thing with the Sheriff’s Department website. It’s very hard to get ahold of our current sheriff.”
Consequently, Napier said if he becomes sheriff, he would implement an “Ask the Sheriff” button on the department website for direct communication between himself and the public.
Another aspect Napier would like to introduce would be an internal survey with his officers to discover where the problems are in the organization.
“This would be an anonymous way to hear from line level people about where we are at, where we need to be, what’s broken, what’s working, and to be more accessible internally as well,” he said.
Napier added that he would also make it a priority to improve leadership communication between jurisdictions, as well as to maintain fiscal responsibility in a department he said currently has “too much money going toward the administration.”
“I’m not a fan of how the current funds are allocated,” he said. “When they cut the budget, they cut things like investigations and at the same time administrative costs have gone up. I’d like to really drill down on that budget and find out where those dollars are going, and implement a performance-based budget, which simply means looking at where we spend each dollar with the correlation of the department, and seeing if the spending of that dollar makes sense.”
Dupnik found himself under attack by each of the candidates in the primary election regarding controversial comments made after the Jan. 8 shooting, which he blamed on “vitriol” political rhetoric, and Senate Bill 1070, which he called “racist and disgusting.”
“The people of Pima County don’t elect you to be a political pundit, they elect you to be their sheriff,” he said. “This is a partisan race, and I understand that the sheriff’s office is a partisan office, but public safety is not a partisan issue, it’s a human issue, it’s a community issue. This political rhetoric has no place in the role of a sheriff.”
Napier also disagrees with Dupnik’s assessment that the comments were made because they related to public safety.
“To call a segment of your constituents bigots and racist, to declare this is the new Tombstone, is not a public safety commentary, that is a political commentary that certainly had no place in any law enforcement briefing in January of 2011.”
Referring to SB1070, Napier added, “Declaring a law enacted by our legislatures as racist and unconstitutional is not a public safety issue, that is a political commentary. The sheriff does not decide which laws are constitutional and which ones aren’t. We have another branch of government that does that. I respectfully disagree that these comments have not been centered around public safety issues.”
When asked how he would deal with issues as sheriff that he didn’t agree with, Napier’s response was simple.
“Police officers do that everyday,” he said. “They have to. I spent almost three decades as a police officer, and you’re mandated to keep your personal biases and feelings and political feelings out of the way so that you can go about your duties as a law enforcement officer. You have to detach yourself from political ideology and look toward what is in the best interest of all citizens of Pima County. I’m not running to be the sheriff of Republicans of Pima County, I’m running to be the sheriff of the one million people who make their home in Pima County. I am a Republican, and I make no apologies for that, but I can certainly keep my political ideologies in check.”
For more information on Napier’s platform, visit www.marknapier4sheriff.org.