On Feb. 9, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, along with renowned actor and Deputy Sheriff Steven Seagal, will begin training civilian members of Maricopa County's posse program to provide school protection at no cost to the taxpayers of Arizona.
Arizona has long been a state which has invited and trained its citizens to assist in law enforcement, which in the past have included illegal immigration checkpoints, border patrol, and even assisting in monitoring high crime areas throughout the city.
The self-proclaimed "America's Toughest Sheriff" joined forces this weekend with action movie star Steven Seagal to train volunteer armed posse members to defend Phoenix-area schools against gunmen.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced the controversial plan in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting that left 27 people dead, including the gunman and 20 first-graders.
The exercise took place Saturday at a closed school site in suburban Fountain Hills, outside Phoenix, where sheriff's SWAT members acted as shooters and teenagers played the part of students during mock scenarios involving up to three gunmen.
"I want everyone to know about it for the deterrence effect," Arpaio said, adding that no taxpayer money would be spent on the patrols and volunteers will be supervised over the radio or telephone by actual deputies. - Associated Press
In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, municipalities across the country have investigated the potential of hiring new security, or using duty officers to patrol, monitor, and protect schools, which at this time are still legislated as gun-free zones. For many cities across the country however, budget constraints have actually forced many local legislators to layoff first responders, and without Federal grant monies, would be unable to pay for child security in the vast number of school districts that encompass a community.
For Arizona however, and especially Maricopa county, it is the partnership between law enforcement officers and the community that makes a program like this so workable. Sheriff Arpaio's posse program already contains over 3000 volunteer members, all trained to rigid standards of the law, gun safety and marksmanship, and tactical coordination. In fact, with a state full of retirees and former military veterans, the pool by which Arizona could increase the posse program could go as high as 200000 if needed.
All at no cost to the taxpayers of Arizona, or the Federal government, and helping to create a comradery between law enforcement, and the citizens they protect.
With money so tight at the local, state, and Federal levels, the idea of using trained volunteers to fill a need in the growing escalation of shooting violence around the country is destined to become a model for many other states to follow. When you compare the amount of firearm violence in the city of Chicago, where gun ownership is fiercely restricted, and recent policies by law enforcement will now leave many citizens without basic protection for life and property, Arizona's new plan to promote armed protection in schools throughout the city, without a single cost to the taxpayers or state budget, should be hailed as a success, and become a model for how communities can deal with crime and other forms of security needs.