Armed militia of volunteers patrolling schools and streets in Maricopa County
Arpaio, a, 80-year-old law enforcement figure all too familiar with controversy, is making headlines once again. Arpaio created waves in 2008 when he called for harsh immigration laws, and his policy of putting Maricopa County prison inmates in crudely constructed outdoor tents hasn’t gone unnoticed either. This time he’s taking his efforts straight to the streets, though, and is bringing a militia along with him.
Arpaio’s office confirmed on Wednesday that the sheriff launched a program earlier in the week that involves dispatching hundreds of armed volunteers to make sure criminal activity within the community remains at a minimum.
Sheriff Arpaio made the news himself from a local elementary school, insisting that he wants his plan highly publicized to make would-be criminals aware of his plans.
"I want everyone to know about it for the deterrence effect," he said at the press conference.
Arpaio may be right in that his program will scare would-be criminals away from committing crimes, but it is raising questions from members of the community who weren’t ready for a small army to start patrolling schools.
"They have guns?” resident Susanne Ross asked 3TV News this week. “No, I don't like that and I can't believe something like this would be implemented without speaking to parents first,"
Arpaio, on the other hand, says the people of Maricopa County have nothing to worry about. “We owe it to the community to do whatever we can to offset the fear many parents, teachers and administrators are experiencing as a result of the school shootings our nation has endured," he said this week.
Following last month’s Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, the National Rifle Association asked Congress to sponsor a program that would put armed guards in every school in the country. While the NRA’s idea doesn’t seem likely to earn an OK from Washington lawmakers, Arpaio has already started sending men with guns to stand outside of area schools.
"The Sheriff is starting this School Posse program in order to allow everyone to feel safe sending their kids to school," Arpaio spokesman Brandon Jones tells The Daily Beast. "Using the history of his Mall Patrol Posse, statistically driving down crime at the local malls, he believes this is an appropriate way to address the public's outcry for more security in and around schools."
So far this week, Arpaio’s soldiers have been put outside 59 schools in unincorporated areas and communities that pay his agency for police services, the Associated Press reports. When the program is entirely off the ground, he hopes to have as many as 400 volunteers on assignment at any time, with another 100 militiamen to use as reinforcements. It likely won’t be that hard recruiting them, either, as Maricopa County already has around 3,000 volunteers ready to go on assignment — for now, though, only a fraction of them will have guns.
As word spreads across the county of his plans for more armed patrolman, opponents of Arpaio’s School Posse project are already hoping someone pulls the plug. According to comments made to AP, though, the sheriff seems sure that putting more guns on the street is an obvious solution.
"They're well-trained," Arpaio told CNN this week, adding that the armed posse members require “100 hours in training on guns” in order to join his ranks.
“They're covered liability-wise. They have the authority to enforce the law once I mobilize them. And that's what we're going to do,” he said.