In April, Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik celebrated his 50th anniversary in law enforcement. He took time last week to answer questions from, and just talk with, The Explorer.
How’d you get into law enforcement?
Dupnik was a student and baseball player at the University of Arizona in 1958. “I ran short of money, I couldn’t survive without money, and the Tucson Police Department was hiring. I went down and applied, and eventually got the job.
“I never wanted to be a cop. My goal in life was to be a baseball player. I made it to the U of A, but I discovered God didn’t give me all the talents and physique to be a professional baseball player. I was a pretty good hitter, but I couldn’t run as fast or throw as hard as some of the others.”
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in law enforcement?
“When I came on the TPD, we had six weeks of training, three of which were spent riding in the field. That’s not nearly enough knowledge and on-the-job training to prepare you for what you were going to be confronted with. That has been dramatically improved. Organizations like Pima County didn’t have any training. We’ve made tremendous strides in the area of education and the utilization of technology, and in the professionalism as well.”
What are law enforcement’s biggest challenges?
“I think we look at the challenges we face much differently than we did in my day. There was an expectation, not only on my part but in society, that we could really control crime. Today, that expectation doesn’t exist, because people realize police only have a marginal impact on bad behavior.
“Trying to provide basic law enforcement services has become the real challenge. We’ve tried for the last 40 years to go into schools and deal with at-risk kids and so forth, but from a realistic standpoint, we can’t really be much of a substitute for parents. If the parents aren’t going to do their job, society is going to continue to have these problems.
“The problem of drugs is just overwhelming. Until we, government, law enforcement and society as a whole, can figure out how to keep drugs off the streets, kids are going to continue to use them, and we haven’t figured out a way to do that.”
Has the career been rewarding?
“That’s why I’m still here. I have the most interesting, rewarding, challenging job in the county, I really do. I don’t get paid a lot of money, but I love coming to work. I’ve always been a competitor, and I like to compete. I’m 72, and I hate to give it up. When I leave I’m going to be distraught. It’ll be like getting a divorce.”