Sheriff wants armed posse to enforce illegal immigration laws

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PHOENIX – Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio says he is ramping up his fight against illegal immigration and is calling on armed volunteers to do the patrols.

Sheriff Joe is always talking about his department’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigration but now he wants to commission a posse whose only job will be to enforce illegal immigration and human smuggling laws.

The sheriff explains, “We have 57 different posses. I want 58.”

Arpaio says posse 58 will be devoted solely to illegal immigration. “I want a little specialized unit. I think it's time to do that.”

Details are sparse but, like the sheriff's other posses, this one will be made up of armed volunteers who will patrol rural areas looking for border crossers and human smugglers.

The sheriff explains, “I want to concentrate more in the desert, maybe that’s where our air posse helicopters can help out because a lot of smugglers are crossing the desert. I like to get to them before they get to Phoenix.”

Latino activist and Arpaio-foe Salvador Reza says Arpaio's announcement is meaningless because the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office already does sweeps and patrols. “He does this to create havoc and also to create fear,” Reza says.

He says volunteer posse members who do not have full police training will likely make mistakes. Reza says, “The posse are just a bunch of inept people that are running around in sheriff’s marked cars.”

While others are likening Arpaio's latest posse to a vigilante patrol group much like the one lead by neo-Nazis that made headlines earlier this summer, Arpaio says his men are trained.

According to MCSO documents, posse members are required to get at least 16 hours of training in addition to firearms training.

The sheriff says, “We do give them training on law enforcement but not the same as a deputy sheriff, but they have authority to make arrest when they’re operating under our supervision.”

The sheriff says the new posse will be mobilized within three weeks. He says the posse will be outfitted with appropriate hardware and gear but it is still not clear what exactly that will entail.