PHOENIX -- Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Thursday that he plans to deploy his armed volunteer posse to protect Valley schools from the kind of violence that happened in the Connecticut shooting tragedy.
Arpaio believes having armed law officers around schools will deter would-be criminals from trying anything violent and, possibly, stop them if they do.
“I have the authority to mobilize private citizens and fight crime in this county,” Arpaio said.
Arpaio first started using his posse to protect malls during the holiday shopping season in 1993 in response to violent incidents in prior years. Since then he said malls where his posse members are on patrol have had zero violent re-occurrences and patrols by his all-volunteer squad during the 2012 shopping season netted a record 31 arrests.
Arpaio said since the program has worked so well in malls he believes it will work just as well protecting schools.
“We're not talking about placing the posse in the schools right now but in the outlying -- the perimeters of the school -- to detect any criminal activity.”
The sheriff didn't talk logistics but said he'll use members of his 3,000 strong posse to patrol schools in towns that fall under sole jurisdiction of the sheriff's office – places like Cave Creek, Anthem, Fountain Hills, Sun City, Litchfield Park, Gila Bend, Carefree, Queen Creek, Guadalupe - which he said amounts to about 50 grade, middle and high schools.
“I don't know if they agree [to my plan] or not. I'll coordinate with them,” the sheriff said, admitting he has yet to talk it over with the schools.
Arpaio's plan came the day after his counterpart in Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and Attorney General Tom Horne said they want to arm teachers and principals.
In response, Arpaio said he'd rather see armed resource officers back in all schools -- a program that's been largely de-funded in recent years.
“I support arming cops in the schools," Arpaio said. "If you have a cop that's armed you don't need a teacher that's armed."
However, Arpaio stopped short of committing to a stance on arming teachers.
“[Politicians] are going to be talking about the guns now for years. But I have certain resources at my disposal and I'm not going to talk about it. I'm going to do it,” Arpaio said about putting his plan into action without the need for political maneuvering.