By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Yet the sheriff's Executive Posse--deputies call it the "political posse"--has remained, for an Arpaio enterprise, surprisingly low-profile.
It was intended to be elite, a cabal for business and community leaders to join while a massive influx of new volunteers were steered into other, less exclusive posses.
Membership continues to be by invitation only, either from a current Executive Posse member or through the recommendation of someone at the Sheriff's Office.
Executive Posse leader Marvin Weide notes that other posses also recruit by invitation only. But Weide and his posse were at one time considered so important that deputies were asked to make room for Weide in the sheriff's downtown office. Today, he runs the Executive Posse out of a Phoenix storefront.
The Executive Posse's exclusivity allowed busy professionals and politicians to keep above the fray as thousands of eager, less-celebrated volunteers jammed the Sheriff's Office training division, learning to shoot straight so they could don brown shirts, patrol malls and bust prostitutes.
The Executive Posse not only wooed the elite, it also tried to think big. Some Executive Posse members wanted to be in the "executive protection" business. Weide encouraged members to study books on how to guard VIPs. He says some members even took Secret Service training.
Copies of the Executive Posse's newsletter, written by Weide, bragged about these assignments, particularly when Bob Dole came through Phoenix on his 1996 presidential campaign. (What the Secret Service thought of Weide's volunteers, the posse's newsletter doesn't say.)
The Executive Posse wanted to attract important locals, and it wanted to protect important out-of-towners.
It was the perfect vehicle for community leaders who wanted to contribute to a cause, develop their influence with the sheriff and bask in Arpaio's growing celebrity.
Manny Wong was one such individual.
Manny Wong, publisher of Asian-American Times, is explaining what separates the Executive Posse from other posses. The well-known Chinese American says he speaks five dialects of Chinese, and he speaks English with an infectious enthusiasm and a charming patois. Those who know him generally describe him as irrepressible, a promoter, the Babbitt of the local Asian population.
He's such an enthusiastic promoter of the Executive Posse that within minutes, he suggests a reporter whom he has never met join the group himself.
The beauty of the Executive Posse, Wong says, is that busy professionals can join it and make valuable contributions to the cause even if they don't have the time to go through training. Or, as Wong puts it, "to contribute philosophically to the virtues of being a posse member to the Sheriff's Office."
Normally, becoming a posse member can take a year of training, particularly if one wants to carry a gun. In the Executive Posse, Wong asserts, one can get a badge right away.
(The Sheriff's Office points out that, in fact, members of all posses receive their badges before they do any training, and that such training is strictly voluntary.)
As for Executive Posse qualifications: "Not necessary," Wong says. "So long as you have a strong person or someone who is well-respected in the community to recommend your name--I don't want to brag about it--like yours truly.
"I don't mind recommending you," he adds.
Wong says he's made it his mission to find individuals in the Asian community who might make good material for the Executive Posse. "I've enrolled six to seven Asians already because we are in the mode of trying to infiltrate some of the per se illegal activities that might happen or might occur if the Chinatown cultural center will ever become into fruition," he says.
"With the advent of high-profile centers in any state, it somehow invites bad elements like organized crime," Wong continues. "So to increase the posse applicants into the Executive Posse . . . I require them to supply us with information of any illegal activities that are happening because they own restaurants, and anyone who comes into town with fresh faces is easily identified by restaurant owners."
Ever the salesman, Wong adds, "In your case, it is an advantageous position for Sheriff Arpaio to include you in there because you're in the media."
Wong says the people he has recruited for the posse have met his high standards: "With no criminal records and, you know, honest, hardworking and willingness to supply us with whatever we need. I do have applications that I deal out whenever I see one and try to talk him into somehow, you know, working with us towards a quality community that's crime-free."
After Wong puts in the good word, the new recruit, he says, meets Sheriff Arpaio himself, and gets a badge. "The badge is basically something that is recognizable by law enforcement agencies such as the sheriff's departments of every county, but not necessarily with federal and Phoenix PDs. But somehow the respect is there."
Then, Wong adds cryptically: "They don't use it fraudulently to take any personal advantage out of it."
He's then asked about two Executive Posse members in particular whom he personally recruited, Kenny Tat and Tom Tat, who manage Great Wall Cuisine.
Wong hesitates. Then he says: "Uh, are you putting this in writing?"