Pinal Co. sheriff takes heat for new armed anti-smuggling volunteer posse

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Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu By Jennifer Thomas Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu By Jennifer Thomas

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu is ramping up his volunteer posse.

The armed anti-smuggling volunteer posse will help deputies fight drug running.

“They're armed to defend themselves because this is a very dangerous area,” Babeu said.

In the past, cartel members have been arrested with drugs and guns around the county.

The new volunteer members have prior military and law enforcement backgrounds.

“What they're going to do is largely focus on intelligence and surveillance and be the eyes and ears to support all of the efforts of our SWAT and our tactical efforts in the western part of Pinal County largely," Babeu said.

Randy Parraz, the president of Citizens for a Better Arizona, is anti-posse.

“Who is responsible for this volunteer when they make a mistake and shoot someone who wasn't even armed? When they shoot someone who crossed the border legally but was armed with nothing but a bag of clothes? Who’s responsible for that death and the family? Oh, some volunteer person who came on a weekend to go shooting and get all excited,” Parraz said.

The news of the posse comes weeks before the election for Pinal County sheriff.

The incumbent Republican sheriff Babeu squares off against Democratic opponent Kevin Taylor, who agrees the posse is a good idea but questions the timing.

“I don't believe any of this is new. It’s now being brought out," Taylor said. "I believe the only reason why this is being brought out is because now it's close to election time.”

Babeu denied this accusation and said, "If that was the case I would have done it in the Republican primary when that occurred. I don't believe there's any question whatsoever that I will be elected by a landslide."

The volunteers are not paid and will have to have at least 100 hours of training and quarterly weapons training.