Sheriff Clarence Dupnik Isn't Who You Think He Is

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Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has become something of a liberal hero in the last few days, speaking out against the "vitriol" of today's political climate and dubbing Arizona "the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry." As the left accuses the right of inflaming the political debate, Dupnik has been a prominent voice blaming heated rhetoric for Jared Lee Loughner's attack, which left six dead. But, as Slate's Christopher Beam finds, the sheriff is a bit more complicated:

But a look through Dupnik's past reveals a much more complex figure than his current portrayal as a liberal Democratic crusader. Dupnik first joined the Tucson Police Department in 1958, was appointed sheriff of Pima County in 1980, and has won re-election ever since. Perpetually over-tasked and under-resourced, Dupnik's force has the near-impossible job of dealing with not just the usual case load, but also the continuous flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico. In 1981, Dupnik sent a message to all residents: Arm yourselves. Police couldn't adequately protect the populace, he said, because they didn't have sufficient manpower: "Not only are things not good, they are going to get worse. For those who are so inclined, it's time to start protecting yourselves." ...

Even the stance for which Dupnik is best known--his opposition to S.B. 1070 in 2010--isn't so cut and dried. When the Arizona legislature first passed the law, which would crack down on undocumented immigrants and the people who harbor and transport them, Dupnik said he would refuse to enforce it. Dupnik objected to the provision that would allow law enforcement officials to ask people who looked like immigrants to show their documentation, dismissing the law as "disgusting," "unwise," "stupid," and--his own word--"fornickaboobery." Once the profiling language was removed, though, Dupnik supported the law. "I don't have any problem with it now," he told Megyn Kelly on Fox News on Aug. 11.

Read the full story at Slate.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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