Memorializing Sheriff Larry Dever

By Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu

Losing any local county Sheriff would be significant to regional law enforcement and would shake up the political landscape, since Arizona Sheriffs are usually the heavyweight in their respective county. The death of Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever is far more significant, since he was a leader among elected Sheriffs and clearly helped shape a more reasonable conversation on border security.

Sheriff Dever was not only a board member of the National Sheriffs’ Association, he also served as chairman of the Border Security Committee. I was on his committee when he spearheaded the effort to get a unanimous committee vote to adopt the elements of the McCain/Kyl 10 Point Border Security Plan. Later that year in St. Louis, America’s 3,000 elected Sheriffs unanimously approved Dever’s plan.

With all the political implications of this vote to adopt a controversial plan, where it may seem like a no brainer for Arizonans – trust me, many of the Sheriffs on the committee were as partisan democrat as Sheriff Dever and I are republican. Sheriff Dever had more than a decade of cultivating all these relationships with these Sheriffs and he used every bit of his personal and professional credibility to convince Sheriffs from California, New York, North Carolina, Florida and Alabama that this is the right policy for America. We were cautioned by high level officials that by taking this formal and very public position, it would alienate our organization from President Obama and his administration. Sheriff Dever never flinched. His calm demeanor and his western Arizonan charm was disarming and his arguments convincing. Larry made this herculean effort look like a stroll in the park.

When all 15 Arizona Sheriffs were facing lawsuits from the ACLU to stop us from implementing SB1070, I called Sheriff Dever and asked him to join join me and the Rose Law Group to fight back with an aggressive legal defense. Larry immediately agreed, convinced his County Attorney and Board of Supervisors to allow him to have outside counsel represent him on this matter and it would not cost Cochise County one dime. Larry went the entire distance, all the way to the Supreme Court, where he filed an amicus brief that articulated our unique law enforcement perspective regarding illegal immigration, drug smuggling, threats from an unsecured border and why we should be able to enforce SB1070. A bit of irony is that the very day Larry died is when a major portion of SB1070 went into effect.

We organized a bipartisan majority of Arizona Sheriffs to call for independent investigation on Fast and Furious, we also served together on the Arizona Joint Legislative Border Security Committee, we battled back the AZ Department of Corrections prisoner and cost shift to counties and we visited each other in our counties. Larry’s sense of humor was amazing and we would often speak jointly before groups in Cochise, Pinal and other parts of Arizona. We would roast each other in front of friendly crowds while talking about serious issues – one Sheriff in uniform and the other in western get-up complete with cowboy hat and boots. There are too many stories that I have and can only imagine the full positive impact this Arizona legend had on his family, his community and those who he directly served in Cochise County.

Sheriff Larry Dever was more than Cochise County’s Sheriff. Larry Dever is truly Arizona’s Sheriff. All of us share in our grief and mourn the loss of our friend and a true American Patriot. We shall pray for strength, peace and comfort for Nancy Dever, his six sons, 11 grandchildren, extended family, CCSO and his many friends. We shall miss you Larry. Our lives have been touched and enriched by your friendship and service.

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September 2012