Republican incumbent Sheriff Paul Babeu engaged in lively debate with Democrat Kevin Taylor and Independent Ty Morgan during a general election candidate forum co-hosted by InMaricopa.com and the Maricopa Monitor Saturday.
Babeu stood on his record, citing the continued reduction of deputy response time, a streamlined dispatch system and an increase in deputy training and equipment and the only nationally accredited jail in the state.
“Folks we run a good operation,” Babeu said. “I believe that it’s the best sheriff’s office in the state,” he said, prior to endorsing Lando Voyles, Republican candidate for Pinal County Attorney.
Taylor said he would bring “leadership, integrity, honesty and professionalism” to the office.
He said Pinal County had a bad reputation around the country and electing him would be way to “move forward.”
“It’s about who can take Pinal County to the next level,” Taylor said.
Independent Ty Morgan emphasized his lack of party affiliation.
“I became an independent candidate because I firmly believe we need to remove politics from law enforcement,” Morgan said. “If you have the influence of this party or that party, then … that influence causes problems in being able to implement the law fairly and equally for everyone.”
Although all three candidates agreed the sheriff’s office could use more resources, either in terms of money, manpower or resources, the candidates approached how to obtain those resources differently.
For Morgan, it was a matter of better reallocating available funding.
“I think right now some of our equipment, some of our money and some of our manpower are being allocated incorrectly,” Morgan said.Babeu defended his budget decisions, saying he obtained grants and federal and state funding to supplement the inadequate budget already in place.
Also, he said the sheriff’s office had a number of partnerships in place with other law enforcement agencies to help supplement the number of deputies.
Taylor also criticized how the sheriff’s office spent money, suggesting a survey should be done in which areas most in need of protection were identified and use that information to request additional funding from the board of supervisors.
The candidates also sparred when asked if deputies needed raises despite agreeing officers deserved more pay.
Babeu said unless the pay scale improved along with the economy, the sheriff’s department wouldn’t be able to retain the officers already in place or recruit from a top-tier pool.
He said if elected he would work with the supervisors next year to find out “what the market would bear and put us, not at the top, but in the top five of those (departments) who we really compete with to recruit and to retain.”
Taylor jabbed at Babeu’s decision to put deputies on 12-hour shifts and said in addition to obtaining raises for the deputies, the department should tell the officers “we’re going to cut your hours; we’re going to give you more family time.”
Morgan also attacked the 12-hour shift and said 10-hour shifts were necessary in addition to raises.
“They need that time, they need that break,” Morgan said.
Babeu implemented the shift change to reduce response times.