Three years into retirement, former Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos is looking rested and fit.
He could only feel better than he did in 2016, when he lost the election to Republican Mark Napier after an awful 17-month tenure that saw train wreck after train wreck: His chief of staff committed suicide, his deputy chief was indicted by the FBI a month before the election, and deputies delivered a no-confidence vote. Then there was that election loss — a Democrat losing in Pima County is notable, and he went down rather hard.
Nanos, who’d been appointed to the post in August 2015, told me right after the election that he had no intention of running again. Last week, he laughed at the memory when I brought up.
He points out that a lot of people are relying on him this time around, and that while he has thoroughly enjoyed retirement, “I love this community.”
His competition in the primary is former sergeant and union leader Kevin Kubitskey.
Nanos, 64, is a cop’s cop. He lights up when he tells stories about the street. Whether he’s as excited and adept as an administrator — not to mention liked and accepted by the troops — is the looming question.
On the issues
•Nanos wouldn’t go after Operation Stonegarden money, a federal grant the county rejected this year after more than a decade years of accepting it. When he was sheriff, Nanos gave Stonegarden money to Santa Cruz County because he said they had a bigger need. He wasn’t surprised at the rejection by Pima County because President Trump has been tough on immigration and started the border wall, “and we know the politics of Tucson.” Nanos says, “I think when we work with our federal partners and there are no strings attached, things are better.” He’d accept other grants — such as DEA grants that fund officers and those that pay Employee Related Expenses, one of the county’s hang-ups with Stonegarden.
•Recruiting deputies: It’s tough, especially these days. His answer: Grow your own through the Corrections Department, which falls under the purview of the sheriff. Give them experience, then an opportunity.
•George Floyd lessons: Reforms aren’t going to address the problem completely. “I look beyond police reform, it’s judicial reform we need.” It also reaches to bail reform and rehabilitation in jail, which Nanos says just doesn’t happen. “There’s no rehabilitation. We don’t rehabilitate people. Jails and prisons are bad places.”
•Defunding the police: The bigger question is defining the job. Deputies show up at mental illness calls unprepared, he says. “They’re not the best equipped to handle that.” More and targeted resources will serve everybody, he says.
(Learn more at www.nanosforsheriff.com.)
— Dan Shearer