Rafael Corrales

There are six candidates for sheriff. What makes you stand out above the others?

“What I think that makes me stand out above the others is that I’m from our community. I was born and raised in our community, and I dedicated 24 years to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office,” Corrales said.

“I know what the department is in need of and I know (what is needed) for our community. I have given all my time to our community and to the department, and I have a lot of experience.”

You said you worked at the Sheriff’s Office for 24 years. What exactly was your position there?

“I actually held a couple of positions at the Sheriff’s Office,” he said, noting that he began as a detention officer in 1993 and transferred to deputy in 1998.

He was later assigned to the Santa Cruz County Metro Task Force, for which he worked narcotics for about six years before being promoted to sergeant in 2006.

“I was sergeant for narcotics, administrative sergeant and I retired as a sergeant (in 2018).”

The sheriff is responsible for the county jail. What will your approach be to running the jail, and what changes to current operations do you plan to make?

“There’s a lot of things occurring right now at the jail that I’ve been doing some research and reaching out to some contacts I have in Pinal County regarding the facility,” he said, noting that the biggest challenge is retaining detention officers.

“I’m not going to get into a lot of details about this, but the most important is finding a way to keep these correction officers at the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office for the safety of the inmates and the correction officers.”

The jail was built to hold 372 inmates, but has barely held 100 on its busiest days. Is there any way, at this point, to repurpose part of the facility, or make use of the empty space?

“Not at this time, not with the amount of employees that there is at the jail right now,” he said. “There’s got to be other ways that you have to look for, not only the federal funding that comes in but there’s got to be other revenues that we got to look at in how to keep that facility functioning.”

What ideas do you have for recruiting and retaining new deputies and corrections staff?

“Retention is very important not only at the detention center but also in patrol. There’s a lot of programs that the Sheriff’s Office has done away with throughout the years, and we need to bring these programs back so that officers want to stay and work for our community.”

Are you a fluent Spanish speaker?

“Yes. I was born and raised in Nogales, and my first language at home – I am Hispanic – is Spanish.”

You’re running as a Democrat. Do you feel that party affiliation is something that voters ought to take into account when choosing a sheriff’s candidate?

“To be honest with you, I don’t believe that voters should choose based on that because I think it comes down more to experience, who’s qualified and who’s going to do the best job in any position.”

Sheriff Estrada has long been an outspoken counterbalance to others in law enforcement and political office that portray the border as a dangerous place, and he is often critical of the militarization of the border. Would you take a similar role?

“I’m not going to compare myself to Mr. Estrada. My stance on that is that anything for safety, for our community and for our officers, is welcome. There’s got to be a way in which we work together,” Corrales said.

“Anything that can make our community safer, in my opinion, we can find ways to make it work.”

You’re running against several candidates who have had big leadership roles in law enforcement. What would you say to voters who might think you’re going for a big position without a proven track record of leadership?

“I was in a leadership role, not only as a sergeant, but as an administrative sergeant,” he said. “Based on all the work that I did on the field, I gained a lot of experience not only in the field, but in the office. I know a lot of what needs to be done, and I’ve also been a leader in my life.”

According to your questionnaire, you’re not involved in any clubs or activities in the community. What are you going to do to raise your profile in the community so voters know who you are?

“I’m actually very active in our community, not necessarily being part of groups,” Corrales said, adding that he currently works as a security guard at Rio Rico High School.

“I have done some things that we have not posted because I believe those things were being done for the better good of our community, not to be used for my campaign.”

There’s a lot of mistrust of the police right now in the United States, especially when it comes to policing minority-majority communities. What would you do to maintain community trust in the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office?

“I would continue to do what I did my whole career… I was loyal to my community and very professional, and that’s how we need to continue,” he said. “We’re not here to punish. We’re here to serve our community.”

Recounting his days as a sheriff’s deputy, he added: “I would tell new officers, ‘Look at every step that you do, everything you do, pretend it’s your mother, pretend it’s your father out there, and that’s who you are helping.’”

Is there anything that we haven’t touched on that you’d like people to know about you and your candidacy?

“All I want the community to know is I devoted my career to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and to our community because I strongly believe in it,” Corrales said. “I’m loyal, I’m faithful and I’m a professional. All throughout my career I was fair, and that what I believe we should do, is be fair.”

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