Kudos to Sheriff Joe Arpaio for successfully monopolizing the paranoia surrounding the mass killings in Sandy Hook by sending his army of Depends-wearin', gun-totin' grumpy geezers out to patrol the perimeters of some schools in the Valley.
Of course, the first day didn't turn out too well, with various local news agencies reporting confusion among school officials and parents as to what the heck the posse will be doing.
A solid question to ask, given the posse's less-than-stellar record.
This record includes posse members' involvement in a big 2003 prostitution sting, where some posse dudes availed themselves of handjobs and other services of alleged hos. As a result, then Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley refused to prosecute 60 persons nabbed in the process.
Add to that, past controversies over where proceeds from the pink underwear sales go, the criminal backgrounds of some posse members themselves, and the posse's recent participation in Arpaio's infamous immigration sweeps.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, you'd have to be seriously uninformed, and just plain stupid to be reassured by the latest MCSO public relations stunt.
Hello, posse members are not cops, and do not possess the authority of police officers.
Basically, they're just old farts with badges and uniforms that look just like sheriff's deputies uniforms. Sometimes they have guns.
Arpaio does as much as possible to blur the line between a posse member and an actual peace officer. The latter being trained at an academy certified by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board.
A successful recruit completes "a minimum of 585 hours of mandated training", according to POST's website, "successfully [completes] all of the academy requirements," and finally, passes "a Comprehensive Final Examination to become AZPOST certified."
But Arpaio would have you believe that all he has to do is wave his wrinkled palm, and say the magic words to allow any doofus to sidestep all of that POST hooey and, essentially, become a part-time cop.
"They have full law enforcement authority, once I mobilize them," Arpaio told Channel 12 news anchor Mark Curtis during a recent interview.
Um, not really, Joe. Not according to AZ POST Executive Director Lyle Mann.
"They are not law enforcement officers," Mann told me of the posse members when I called, asking for his comment.
I asked Mann if a posse member comes up to me and starts ordering me around, can I walk away?
"Yes, you can," said Mann.
Other than a citizens arrest, does a posse member have the authority to arrest someone?
"No, they do not," said Mann, "other than the authority that resides in any citizen, no."
And yet, posse members drive around in marked, black and yellow cars, just like sheriff's deputies. So, do they have the right to put their lights on and pull someone over?
"No," Mann replied.
Still, Arpaio likes for folks to think otherwise.
"Under the law," Arpaio told Channel 12's Curtis, "they have full law enforcement authority once I mobilize them."
Not really. Under the supervision of a deputy, they can act in a support role. You know, kinda like they did in the prostitution busts. But only under the direction of a deputy.
So what can a posse member do on his or her own?
Not a whole helluva lot.
Take this explanation of the Sun City Posse from its website:
"Suspicious circumstances and emergencies observed by the Patrol Posse are immediately reported to Maricopa County Sheriff's Office or the Fire Department."
Indeed, in an Arizona Republic piece published today, Arpaio is paraphrased as stating that, "If police action was needed, the school posse would rely on sworn deputies who regularly patrol near schools."
Gee, that's a bit different from what Arpaio was singing when he was on with Curtis.
Also, Arpaio's insistence that this program will cost nada is bogus. Already, MCSO personnel are having to come up with a plan, after the fact. And the posse members patrolling should, ideally, be supervised by MCSO staff.
This whole thing was dreamed up as a classic Joe Show stunt by Arpaio's flacks.
When Curtis asked Arpaio what the reaction to his plan has been, you can see a flicker of a grin:
"Well, we get quite a few calls from around the country..."
Which is the point, getting Joe's mug on the boob tube. Getting reporters from all over hankerin' to interview the aged autocrat.
As President George W. Bush might have said, "Mission accomplished."
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