COCHISE COUNTY — Leaving politics and egos out of the mix is Sheriff Mark Dannels’ formula for a successful relationship with local, state and federal partners.
There are 31 sheriffs along the southwest border of the United States, from Texas to California. But Dannels is one of few lawmen who can pick up the phone and get Washington, D.C. — pronto.
The sheriff said he has worked to foster relationships at the local, state and federal level for Cochise County’s citizens. The connections have helped him garner resources for his office that in turn have been used to enhance protective measures along the county’s border with Mexico.
Through these partnerships, Dannels and his department also have achieved a level of safety along Cochise County’s border that sees few transgressions from mules and coyotes attempting to illegally bring in drugs and undocumented individuals from Mexico and other countries, U.S. Border Patrol records show.
“We’re in this together,” Dannels said last week in his Bisbee office. “We need to make collective decisions. We’re sharing this, we’re sharing our citizens.”
Some of his closest working relationships are with Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Brian Dorow, the deputy assistant secretary of the Office for State and Local Law Enforcement, at the Department of Homeland Security.
In telephone interviews last week, both Morgan and Dorow said working with Dannels is uncomplicated because the men share common goals.
Morgan said he met Dannels in 2016 when Morgan was chief of the Border Patrol.
“We’re both law enforcement officers,” Morgan said. “It’s about protecting the American people.”
While Morgan said he and Dannels have disagreed at times, their similarities have outweighed any differences.
“Mark has an incredible ability to draw people in,” Morgan said of the sheriff. “There’s not a single agency that can do it alone. Our success is that we work together.”
Dorow echoed those comments. He said that when he first assumed his position at the Department of Homeland Security, he wanted to “cultivate my relationship” with law enforcement along the country’s southwest border.
Dorow said Dannels invited him to visit Cochise County, and he took him up on the offer. He said Dannels stands out among the thousands of law enforcement officials he has dealt with.
“He is one of the finest lawmen in the U.S.,” Dorow said. “He has given us that line of communication.”
Addressing the issues inherent to the southwest border calls for a joint effort, Dorow said, and Dannels has provided that.
“I talk to him (Dannels) several times a week and the partnership is the key,” Dorow said.
Of course, Dannels’s partnerships are not restricted solely to federal agencies. The sheriff subscribes to the “four-tier approach” in his relationships — community, local, state and federal.
Because of that, the Sheriff’s department has been able to implement a number of programs and tools that have helped with issues along the border, as well as situations that have affected ranchers and citizens in rural areas of the county.
The Cochise County Sheriff’s Southern Arizona Border Region Enforcement (SABRE) is helping law enforcement in Cochise and neighboring counties spot smugglers crossing over the border. The assistance is in the form of more than 700 wireless cameras placed strategically in remote and unprotected areas.
Besides intelligence among the various law enforcement agencies, information is also provided by private property owners, Dannels has said. Most of the cameras were purchased with “private funds in a collaborative effort by citizens working with our Arizona State Legislative members and their local sheriffs.”
Connections with federal officials also have brought three other divisions and programs to Cochise County that include the Financial Crimes Unit, the Street Crimes/K-9 Unit and the Intelligence Analyst program, which is supported by the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Additionally, Dannels is working with the Department of Homeland Security on a program aimed at helping youth stay away from radical groups and ideas.
“My lane is public safety,” Dannels says. “Everybody needs that support. I call it a multi-badge, one-mission operation.”