Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik is not the anti-Joe Arpaio.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik is not the anti-Joe Arpaio.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik is not the anti-Joe Arpaio.

Murder, theft, and other wickedness.
Jan. 10 2011 11:06 PM

New Sheriff In Town

Clarence Dupnik is not the anti-Joe Arpaio.

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Dupnik has garnered praise for his apparent lack of interest in media attention. And compared with Arpaio, he's not a publicity monger. But that doesn't mean he's not press savvy. In 1991, Dupnik refused to hire an otherwise competent man as the county's top emergency services official because he believed in UFO's. Dupnik called it "not the kind of image we want to project." Nor is Dupnik exempt from publicity stunts. In a weirdly Arpaio-like move in 2006, Dupnik ordered every inmate on trial for a felony outfitted with a shock-inducing belt. At least one judge ordered them removed from her courtroom.

At the same time, Dupnik hasn't been afraid to take stances that might be unpopular. During the Keating Five scandal in 1990, he traveled to Washington to testify in favor of former Sen. Dennis DeConcini, who was born in Tucson. Asked whether DeConcini ever made fundraising a prerequisite for his attention, Dupnik said, "That would be a ridiculous assertion."

One reason the Dupnik-Arpaio rivalry (or what the media sees as a rivalry) has never gotten out of hand is that neither speaks ill of the other publicly. Dupnik couches their disagreement in terms of resources, not ideology. If Pima County tried to police illegal immigrants like Maricopa County does, "I would use all my resources for that purpose, and I couldn't provide for the safety of this county," Dupnik said in 2006. Likewise, Arpaio doesn't take shots at Dupnik. Both are politicians as much as sheriffs. They know which battles to pick, and which to leave be. And in that sense, perhaps they are most alike.


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Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.