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New Sheriff Chris Nanos: Hard lessons learned

Sheriff Chris Nanos
Posted at 2:54 PM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 21:02:26-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The new Pima County Sheriff, Chris Nanos, is now in his second week on the job.

And he’s making decisions, he said, that will hopefully keep the voters confident in his leadership. He had taken quite a hit.

We're rolling back the clock about five years, the last time KGUN 9's Valerie Cavazos sat down with the sheriff for an interview.

Nanos: They’re going to trash him. Shame on them.
Cavazos: Then why —
Nanos: Shame on them.

It was a tense interview at the height of our investigation into money laundering -- a scandal that involved misusing half a million dollars in seized drug money that rocked the department to its core.

Nanos: We would use RICO dollars which is appropriate.
Cavazos: Is it?
Nanos: By law.
Cavazos: An award’s banquet is appropriate?
Nanos: Let me explain to you.

Nanos later discovered it’s illegal. A trusted top commander took a plea deal.

Nanos is cleared of any wrongdoing, but it cost him the 2016 election. Now he begins his new regime as he takes that same sheriff’s seat again with hard lessons learned.

His first order of business — on his first day — no middle man between him and his finance manager.

"He is now to directly report to me, period. Nobody’s between us," he said. "If that happens here, today, shame on me because there’s no excuse."

He also starts with an entirely new top command. The slate has been wiped clean by way of resignations and retirements -- a command staff he believes he can trust.

“I’ve worked with them for 30-plus years and I know them. I know their character,” said Nanos.

And he knows, he said, he needs to listen.

“Just listening and learning. That’s the number one priority,” he said.

Another top priority includes dealing with a staffing shortage.

“We’re about 125 short of where we were four years ago in terms of staffing. That’s a lot. But more important to me is can I operate with 125 short,” Nanos explained.

He’s looking into possibly shifting deputies — and redrawing districts lines -- based on community needs.

Nanos knows he has to work with what he has — while the county deals with a pandemic budget crisis.

“So we have a baseline budget. It’s not cut. It’s certainly not everything we want but we’re looking at it, we’re working on things,” he said.

For example, on his wish list now are body-worn cameras for deputies. And to improve his odds of getting them, he’s talking with the County Attorney to consider sharing budgets on this.

“We understand that some of the things I want, body cameras, will impact her staff and her needs,” he said.

So he’s working collaboratively with the County Attorney to come up with a program to win over the Board of Supervisors.

But right now, he’s hyper-focused on making sure he has enough deputies to keep the county protected.

“If I can’t respond to calls for service, let’s face it, that’s our number one job,” he said.

And his job for at least the next four years, he said, is to ensure it gets done.

Nanos says another top priority is to tackle the COVID crisis.

Staff is now set to begin receiving the vaccine this week.