The sheriff catches himself.

"Don't you dare make me sound like a liberal!" he tells New Times, chuckling at the thought. "The folks in Cochise County know that I will stand side by side with anyone who needs to protect himself from a threat from an illegal alien or from an American citizen. God knows, they're not going to get much help from the federal government."

Larry Dever
Jamie Peachey
Larry Dever
Larry Dever, circa 1960, preps for his future job as Cochise County sheriff.
Larry Dever, circa 1960, preps for his future job as Cochise County sheriff.

Even when he's in the nation's capital, Dever wears cowboy boots and one of his trademark Stetsons, as Cochise County sheriffs have done since time immemorial. He's no different on the Beltway than he is in the border town of Naco, a genteel, white-haired man holding forth in a steady, deadpan twang that commands respect, if not agreement, from most corners.

It was on one of those D.C. trips that the sheriff met John Bailey, an oft-published professor at Georgetown University and an expert on Mexican policy issues and politics.

The two differ on key immigration-related issues, including the viability of SB 1070 and how or even whether to move certain undocumented migrants into some kind of legal status.

Dever scoffs at the accusation that law enforcement would be free under SB 1070 to promiscuously profile pretty much anyone of color.

"We've been asking people where they are from, when we have a good reason legally to stop them, for as long as I've been a cop," he says. "We wouldn't have the right under 1070 to stop everyone just because we wanted to, and we wouldn't."

But philosophical differences — Dever calls the idea of comprehensive immigration reform "bullpucky," and Bailey does not — haven't kept the men from continuing their healthy dialogue.

"Larry is an exceptional guy, extremely bright, and very engaging personally," Bailey says. "He thinks about things and tries to improve his position with logic, not with screaming and yelling that someone with an opposite viewpoint is stupid or a nut or whatever. And I'll tell you this: He knows his border, his county, inside and out."

Bailey says he trusts Dever enough "as a reasonable lawman that having the [1070] law in his hands wouldn't trouble me. It's some of those other 14 sheriffs in Arizona that would worry me."

Bailey primarily speaks of Joe Arpaio.

Surprisingly, it took Arpaio years in office to realize that declaring war on undocumented brown-skinned migrants was good for votes and publicity, his stock-in-trade. Starting in early 2006, Arpaio's deputies began their "immigration sweeps" of hapless Latino corn vendors, day laborers, and car-wash attendants, all with TV cameras in tow.

"Joe is Joe," Dever replies drily to a question from philanthropist-farmer Howard Buffett at a private get-acquainted lunch last month at Buffett's home in Willcox. "We get along fine when it suits him. He does things how he does them, and I do things how I do them. We have different styles and ideas on some things."

(Buffett is the eldest son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, and his foundation oversees a farming operation about 50 miles from the New Mexico border.)

Dever continues to discuss Arpaio with New Times after the spirited meeting with Buffett, and something he says unknowingly echoes Professor Bailey's concerns.

"As with anything, we always have to police ourselves, 1070 or no 1070," Dever says. "Hopefully, we wouldn't bring discredit to our agency by anything we might do. I'm not saying that Joe does that, though some people think he does. He's the sheriff up there and has some autonomy in his county, and he's doing what the majority of the people up there apparently want him to do. But that's not the way we do business here, nor do we intend to."

Dever is referring, in part, to the "show busts" of mostly small businesses that Arpaio's agency seems to execute on slow news days. Dever does strongly favor sanctions against business owners who hire undocumented workers: "Hiring the cheapest worker is just wrong, and that's part of what I'm talking about with immigration enforcement."

But, he adds quickly, "We turn over what information we get to ICE, because that's what [it does]. We don't have the money or manpower to do what the feds are supposed to be doing, and I always try to keep the lines of communication open with them, for better or worse."

Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake tells New Times that he has faith in Dever's tough common-sense approach to the emotion-charged issue.

"President Obama and his people spend so much time trying to convince the American public that the border is secured," says Flake, a nationally known moderate Republican who wants to replace retiring Jon Kyl as an Arizona U.S. senator. "That flies in the face of reality down there. Larry's not exactly popular with Janet Napolitano and the current administration because he doesn't go along with their spin. But you can argue that no one knows the local issues on that border better than him."

Flake chuckles when asked how Dever might fare if he were to run for national office.

"Why ruin a good man?" Flake says.

Popular as Larry Dever is in Cochise County, southern Arizona politicians probably need not worry about him encroaching on their turf.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help

Arizona has lost a leader of more than three decades in our law enforcement community. My thoughts and prayers today – and those of Arizonans, I am sure – are with his wife, Nancy, their children, friends and colleagues as they cope with this terrible loss

In honor of Sheriff Larry Albert Dever and his 34 years of dedicated service to the State of Arizona, and for the peace of mind he has provided the citizens of Cochise County, I have ordered that flags at all State buildings be lowered to half-staff until sunset today, September 19, 2012, and again on his day of interment, for which services are pending."


@brahmresnik sheriff joe is a real a sheriff and so is the other one you named there all good


@brahmresnik You couldn't tell from Babeu's multiple TV appearances today that they ended badly.


@brahmresnik He was a good guy. RIP.


@Kit_Quemada Sure can't. Some unfinished business there.

Phoenix Concert Tickets