/ Modified aug 3, 2016 10:39 a.m.

Pima Sheriff's Candidates: New Leadership Needed

Two Republicans face off for right to challenge appointed Sheriff Chris Nanos.

Napier, Staten sheriff's candidates spotlight Republicans Mark Napier, left, and Terry Staten, center, with AZPM's Anfrea Kelly, discussing issues in the race for Pima County sheriff.

Two experienced law enforcement officers are facing off in this month’s primary election, in hopes of becoming the Republican nominee for Pima County sheriff.

The two, Mark Napier and Terry Staten, have different backgrounds, but similar approaches to handling the office of sheriff.

Napier and Staten agree on one thing: Democratic Sheriff Chris Nanos should not be elected to a full term in his own right, after being appointed to the job last year.

Napier, who is associate director for parking and transportation at the University of Arizona, said in a Metro Week discussion with Staten, that the need for new leadership in the Sheriff’s Office is obvious.

“The department’s had internal leadership for about 40 years, and then recently we’ve seen an erosion of that leadership," Napier said. "We’ve got an FBI investigation under way with the department. Deputy morale is at an all-time low."

Staten, a sheriff’s deputy with 25 years experience in Pima County, said he agrees the department needs a change.

“There is a FBI investigation going on that brings a bad light to our department, which has never happened before," Staten said. "The morale is driven low because of the retaliation and the intimidation that has been going on because of the issues with pay and so on."

The two men took different paths in their careers. Napier worked for the Tucson Police Department for 20 years and put in another year with the Glendale Police Department. He teaches criminal justice online for Boston University. He said varied experience and a good education make him best suited to be sheriff:

“Law enforcement has become incredibly complex," Napier said. "Certainly the social, economic, racial, environmental enforcement operates in is complex, it’s not simple. The fiscal environment is very complex. I went back to school during my career and struggled to get my undergraduate degree in social psychology.

"I want to get my master's degree in criminal justice, because I think experience which I have a plethora of is important but topping it off with some formal education is also important because the complexity of the environment we operate in," he said.

Staten said his experience in Pima County make him more better qualified to lead the department.

“What's important here is experience that I've gained over the last 25 years with the Pima County Sheriff's Department is value that you can't get with a degree," Staten said. "I agree that I have not obtained rank, but rank does not equal leadership, and I think that leadership is extremely important within my department, and the men and women of my department have come to me asking me to lead.”

Staten said he is especially proud of having set up the mental health support team at the sheriff’s department, a team that deals with people who have behavioral problems.

“People were falling through the cracks going back and forth in and out of jail," he said. "Those were things that were becoming an issue not only for the taxpayers but for law enforcement itself because we are spending too much time going back and forth having dealing with those folks together.

"So what I did was I brought the community together within the mental health community to work with law enforcement to make sure they understand that law enforcement wasn’t there always to arrest these people but we were there to make sure that they got help.”

Like Staten, Napier said the Pima County Sheriff’s Office needs to reach out to groups that are now overlooked, building better relationships with the community at large:

“... And you do that by reaching out to those groups ahead of when you actually have a crisis situation," Napier said. "In Ferguson, they had no relationship with those parts of their community, and so when there's a tragic incident it flamed up because there weren't lines of communication or understanding already built. ... "

The winner of the Staten-Napier race will face Democrat Nanos in the November general election.

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