Reporter: Rikki Mitchell
COCHISE COUNTY, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - The hotly contested race for Cochise County Sheriff comes after a car crash killed long-time lawman Larry Dever last month.
As part of KGUN9's Project Red, White & Blue, we asked the six candidates how they would address border security, crime and how they would pick up where Larry Dever left off.
Here are three of the candidates and their answers:
"I've been at Larry Dever's side his entire tenure of office," says write-in candidate Rod Rothrock. "I'm well acquainted with the plans and strategies, and it is my intent to pick up where he was forced to leave off."
"Larry and I share a lot of similar philosophies," says candidate Mark Dannels. "I'm not Larry Dever though. It took him 16 years and a huge foundation to make his legacy. My job is to safeguard his legacy, safeguard the culture of Cochise County, which is the agriculture means here. We have a very diverse county...carry on enforcement and the efforts at the border."
"I really believe the Cochise County Sheriff's Department has an opportunity to change its course and put itself on the the pathway to become the gold standard for law enforcement," says write-in candidate James Alexander. "I want to do that by becoming accredited by the Commission for Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies...ensure that the department is performing its job which is to provide safety to the community in a most effective manner."
On Border Security-
"One of the things that needs to be addressed is observation posts," says Rothrock. "That the smugglers have. We've disrupted several over the last several years. Some are used on an occasional basis, some are used on a pretty regular basis. They have solar panels to recharge cell phones and radios, they have night vision equipment, they backpack in supplies to these and it gives them an advantage. It certainly enables them to get their process across the border and deliver it to their destination."
"My goal is revitalize the border team, and put some deputies back on the border with a partnership with our local, our state and federal law enforcement agencies," says Dannels. All the folks that are being affected, but most important our citizens by the issues that come from the border, drug trafficking, criminal activity, terrorist acts. We need to make that a priority, right behind our employees, our employees are number one to me."
"I want to [start] a second posse, a patrol posse," says Alexander. "A volunteer group that would work with the other state and federal agencies that would patrol known trafficking routes because in my opinion, the most dangerous thing in Cochise County that's going on right now is the trafficking of illicit drugs."
"Crime is our primary focus of course, public safety is our primary responsibility," says Rothrock. "I think it would be a mistake to look at the recent, frequent and close together events as being a trend. I would view it more as an anomaly. Some of these events are tragic, but we plan to continue serving the public and answering calls for service and making arrests and doing the job that the public expects us to do."
"I want to take as many resources, re-apply those back into the community where the problems begin," says Alexander. "That includes all the way up the leadership to me. I don't lead from behind a desk, I lead from the field where the problems are, talking to people, understanding where the problems are and understand who is doing what. Most people in the communities know where the problems are, we just need to talk to them so they have a voice with us and we understand that."
"Cochise County Sheriff's Department is understaffed, says Alexander. "It's currently staffed at 85 sworn officers, it's budgeted for 87 but they're down two. Cochise County has done nothing to increase the number of sworn officers, that's why crime is rising, there's not enough sworn deputies. I'll work with with the county commissioners to increase the budget to the Sheriffs Department to get those 23 sworn officers."
**Note: Mark Dannels is the only candidate on the ballot for the general election. The other five candidates are all write-in's. KGUN9 apologizes for the mistake during the 5 p.m. newscast Wednesday.