SUN CITY WEST, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - It was standing room only as more than 1,000 Sun City West retirees packed a room to listen to Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone explain why the posse program has been temporarily suspended.
Most were upset and worried about their safety.
Penzone announced Jan. 25 he's suspending the volunteer program after an audit only four of the 200-plus armed posse members passed required background checks.
Penzone said it's his goal to get the program back up and running in 60 days, which is roughly March 25, but says it could take longer to vet all volunteers.
"Ethically, this organization is going to have a consistent standard whether you're are a full-time employee or a volunteer who represents the organization," said Sheriff Penzone.
However, that time frame is no sitting well with some Sun City West residents. The 11-square mile 55+ retirement community sits about 45 minutes west of Phoenix.
"If he's stopping the posse, he's not looking out for us," said one senior. "I'm very upset with what he's doing."
The community doesn't have its own police department, so it relies on the MSCO Sheriff's Posse to respond to traffic accidents, vacation watch, prevent crime and conduct welfare checks.
The posse fills in the gaps while MSCO responds to more urgent calls.
According to the MCSO Posse website, volunteers provide law enforcement support services to the sheriff.
Penzone said he will reallocate resources to keep people safe, but didn't specify what those resources would be.
"We can't have people out there that we don't know are deserving and take the risk they do something inappropriate or unlawful," explained Penzone.
Sheriff Penzone met w/ @SunCityWestAZ residents to discuss the new background process for Posse members.The new process ensures the posse meet the same standards our deputies must meet. Posses are a vital part of MCSO, we thank those who volunteer to help make our community safer pic.twitter.com/uFWHwQxdhm— Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (@mcsoaz) February 8, 2019