By Chase Kamp
Special to the Miner
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and five other hopefuls for the office talked policy and tossed criticisms at the Pinal County Deputies Association Debate on June 28, 2012 in Florence.
The candidates jabbed Babeu for attracting controversial high-profile media attention and said they would improve PCSO policy, prompting Babeu to argue the candidates only aimed to attack him and had no concrete plans of their own.
Candidates participating in the debate were Babeu, Kevin Taylor Jack McClaren, Ty Morgan, Tom Bearup and Glen Milsaps.
Babeu leaned hard on his accomplishments in office, framing himself as a champion for his employees. He said he has fought the Board of Supervisors for wage increases and greater numbers.
“I’ve fought to maintain salaries for our staff for competitiveness and to retain employees,” he said.
However, the other candidates took swipes at PCSO’s structure and the number of available patrol deputies.
Independent candidate Ty Morgan argued PCSO has too many of what he called “inessential high-dollar management jobs.”
“We need to put that money into patrol,” he argued.
Jack McClaren, who currently serves as Constable for the Apache Junction Justice Court, was most critical of Babeu’s anti-cartel efforts in southern Pinal. McClaren argued that patrol officers are being taken off their beats to combat smuggling in the Vekol Valley.
“We need to be in a supporting role down there, because we have drug problems right here in our own backyard,” he argued. “We need deputies here to answer your 911 calls.”
Babeu agreed. “Right down the in San Tan Valley there is 83,000 people and 46 patrolmen,” he said.
However, Babeu denied that neighborhood patrol was being thinned because of drug operations, saying PCSO has collaborated with other agencies to take on cartels. “That doesn’t go on,” he said. “I’ve met personally with police chiefs from other agencies to have them be a part of our narcotics task force.”
Debate questions were gathered anonymously from PCSO employees, some of which inquired about employee policies like shift lengths.
“Deputies have been pulled from the roadways, and I know this because they’ve been forced to work a 12-hour shift,” McClaren said. “We need more of them so we can create four ten-hour shifts.”
Babeu defended the shift structure currently in place, saying it proved to have the best response times. “We went to the 12-hour shifts because we tried a number of different patrol models and we got the best response time from that,” he said.