The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office has announced that it is forming a civilian posse to help deputies with law enforcement duties, particularly during emergencies.
The move comes as protests against police continue throughout Arizona and the country at large, prompting greater scrutiny of police actions.
Speaking to the Arizona Republic, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb said that he had two groups in mind when he came up with a civilian policy: people who are looking to improve policing and residents who are frustrated with protests against law enforcement.
He said that right now, agencies are looking for ways they can improve their relationships with the community, especially given all the current talk of defunding the police.
So far, Pinal County has not seen any non-peaceful protests. There have only been a handful of Black Lives Matter protests in the county, and none have resulted in any arrests or rioting. Nevertheless, he believes the posse is needed to help everyone feel more comfortable and be prepared in the case of a bad situation arising.
He also cited the county’s sprawling size as a reason for the posse as it would enable law enforcement to be available sooner in times of emergency or widespread unrest. The county covers almost 5,400 square miles and is roughly the size of Connecticut.
Lamb said that posse members will have to undergo a four-hour training session that teaches topics such as constitutional law, use of deadly force, home safety, search and seizure, and other police tactics. Participants will also be given the opportunity to practice scenarios in a virtual range with one of their instructors.
They will also have to pass a background check and sign a waiver. Successful applicants will be given a certificate and ID. The sheriff’s office said that the program is open to all residents, not just those who live in Pinal County.
Sheriff Lamb said he has the authority to deputize civilians to help law enforcement. While he hopes that this sort of action won’t be necessary, he does want to ensure that the people who are willing to step in and help will be trained and ready.
He said he believes cities across the country have been completely overrun, and he feels that it’s his job to suppress insurrections and riots to avoid a situation like what is being seen in Portland. There, residents have been protesting for nearly two months and calling for police reform after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
He said: “We have a lot of people chime in on things they don’t have any clue about. I see so many people talking about police work, and they don’t have the slightest clue about what it’s like to go out and do the job, yet they’re out there running their mouth about it.”
He added: “If you don’t like how police are, then come be a cop and help us change it.”
So far, the sheriff’s office says that more than 1,500 people have signed up for the posse. It’s not clear if they will be on call for emergency situations or will have jurisdiction over particular areas of the county. In any case, it could one day prove incredibly useful to have so many trained citizens there.
Lamb said: “Should you ever need to protect your family, home or community, you’ll have some of the skills and knowledge you need.”