The Arizona sheriff who has claimed “our own government has become our enemy” and starred in a campaign ad for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been awarded the 2011 Ferris E. Lucas Award for Sheriff of the Year by the National Sheriffs’ Association. The group, which calls itself the largest association of law enforcement professionals in the U.S., credits Sheriff Paul Babeu, of Pinal County, Arizona with becoming “one of the most progressive Sheriffs in the country.”
In a statement announcing the award, the NSA wrote:
Sheriff Babeu has earned both statewide and national attention for his strong stance against illegal immigration. His stance and actions against those responsible for drug and human trafficking has earned him the distinction as one of “America’s Toughest Sheriffs on Illegal Immigration.”
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office is the third largest in the state of Arizona with over 700 employees. Under Sheriff Babeu’s direction, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office has acquired both innovative equipment and technology through $7,000,000 in grant funding. Citizens of Pinal County used to have to wait up to 15 minutes for a deputy to respond, the response time has now been cut in half.
“I’m very humbled by this recognition for the exemplary work of our staff, volunteers and the strong community support by the public,” Babeu said in a statement provided to TPM by his office. “We will not let up, but strive for further agency improvements in an effort to best protect our families.”
Babeu certainly had quite a year in 2010. He’s the lawman who starred in McCain’s “danged fence” campaign ad. He’s been a strong critic of the federal government’s border policy, and responded to the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Arizona’s controversial anti-immigration law by saying “our own government has become our enemy.” In August, he told The Washington Times that “Mexican drug cartels literally do control parts of Arizona.”
TPM has also documented the saga of Babeu’s former deputy, Louie Puroll. Last April, just days after Gov. Jan Brewer signed Arizona’s new law, Puroll was involved in an incident in which he said he was shot by drug smugglers in the desert. The shooting made national news, and helped raise Babeu’s profile as an authority on border issues. Months later, a reporter at the Phoenix New Times published a story in which experts raised doubts about Puroll’s account. TPM then investigated several misstatements and exaggerations Babeu made publicly about the incident. Babeu stood by Puroll. When a test of the shirt Puroll wore the day of the shooting came back negative for gunpowder, undercutting the argument some experts made that Puroll’s wound was self-inflicted, Babeu told reporters the matter was closed, and Puroll denounced his critics in a defiant press conference. But in a subsequent interview with the New Times, Puroll made several startling statements, even telling the reporter that a friend had offered to kill him following the initial story. Babeu then suspended and ultimately fired Puroll, citing, among other things, violations of ethics and truthfulness.
The NSA gives out the Ferris E. Lucas award to recognize a sheriff “for contributions made to improve the Office of Sheriff on the local, state, and national levels, and for involvement in the community above and beyond the responsibilities required.” Babeu was also credited with being a “strong proponent” of efforts to improve public safety. Babeu will received the award on Sunday, June 19th at NSA’s Annual Conference in St. Louis, Missouri.
(h/t The Arizona Republic)
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com