It's 2:05 p.m. on a Wednesday. We're working the second-shift patrol out of Sun City Sheriff's Posse headquarters. My partner's name is Jack Goodrich. Moved out here from Omaha a few years ago after retiring from Union Pacific Railroad. Me? I'm a civilian just along for the ride.
Things seem pretty quiet.
2:26 p.m. Still cruising and still quiet. Hmmm. Maybe our police radio's broken.
2:47 p.m. Still cruising. Hey, is this place deserted or what?
3:12 p.m. Jack and I are having a pleasant chat when the police radio finally squawks: "560!" That's us! There's a call on Teakwood Drive! We're on our way!
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office takes care of the law and order in this 26-square-mile unincorporated city of retirees. The Sun City Sheriff's Posse and its counterpart in Sun City West take care of the fear. Here are some examples:
* When the movie theatres let out at night in Sun City, a posse member will routinely patrol the parking lot to escort moviegoers and help some of the forgetful ones break into their cars. The posse also checks to see whether residents have remembered to lock their cars to protect valuables.
* When people go on vacations, even for the entire summer, the posse regularly checks doors, windows, lights, yards, looks for water leaks or signs of forced entry and picks up newspapers.
* When residents wander off absent-mindedly or because of illness, the posse comforts relatives and helps the regular deputies search.
"People get scared, and they start imagining things," Jack Goodrich says. "So, the Sheriff's Office will send us over. We'll flash our alley lights, and they'll feel better. There's `old old' and there's `young old,' and people out here need that feeling of reassurance."
The posse's report for March counts 5,599 "services" in 41 categories. "Family fight"? Zero. "Unknown trouble"? Zero. On the other hand: "Open garage door"? 39. "Vacation/patrol watch"? 489. "Drive by"? 567. (These are not gang-related drive-by shootings; this is literally "driving by.")
Jack Goodrich, who joined the posse because he believes that "man cannot live by golf alone," calls it the "humanist" kind of police work. Like the time a woman lost her white poodle: "I had to chase that dog for about five blocks. And, oh, the crying and the tears. It wasn't any big deal, but it makes you feel good. You're putting something back in the community."
The posse currently has 160 members, is completely self-supporting and has a sparkling and spacious headquarters. It also has a presence, especially now that its members patrol in regular uniforms and cop cars, instead of golf carts. To grifters, burglars and punk kids, they look like the law. To other Sun Citians, they look like neighbors.
A few posse members are ex-cops from places like New York and Chicago, and several are ex-military men, like current posse Commander Jack Sorenson, who was a Marine for thirty years and several wars. But most are ex-bankers, ex-secretaries or ex-others who like public service and uniforms. Everybody gets paid the same: nothing.
Jack Goodrich and his wife, Audrey, usually ride together on the night shift. "There's no such thing as a routine patrol," says Jack, who recalls that, a few weeks ago, a javelina wandered into Sun City. Posse members helped corner it on Meade Drive until animal-control officers arrived. "We just tried to keep it from getting too excited," Jack recalls.
One memorable night last winter, Audrey and Jack spotted a bundle of rags on the sidewalk. It was actually a woman who had gone outside to empty her trash and had fallen down and was unable to get up. She had been crawling for hours. "We got her inside where it was warm," Jack says. "That was satisfying." Audrey stayed with her a while to comfort her.
3:27 p.m. Jack and I pull up to the house on Teakwood Drive. The fire truck and ambulance are already there.
Inside, a lifelong smoker is having difficulty breathing. Jack stands by patiently and respectfully while the paramedics wheel the man to the ambulance.
Jack walks through the house, checking or locking doors and windows, after making sure the gentleman has his keys. He checks the switches on the stove and coffee pot--it's a good thing he does, because the pot, though empty, is accidentally on and hot to the touch.
Out front, Jack picks up the newspaper and puts it out of sight. He consults with a neighbor to make sure the gentleman's relatives will be told he's at the hospital. (Neighbors in Sun City routinely exchange phone numbers of relatives.)
We climb into our patrol car. Jack jots a few notes for his report and checks in with dispatcher Clara Toon.
Jack looks at me and says, "That's the way it works."
A PLATE IN THE SUN... v5-23-90