The “posse program” launched by former Sheriff Joe Arpaio is under investigation by Arpaio’s successor, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone. Arpaio, convicted of criminal contempt for willful refusal to comply with a federal court order – and later pardoned by President Trump – said he formed the posses to protect citizens and free up sheriff’s officers for other duty. Others claim it was merely a political stunt by Arpaio to promote his own agenda.
Some criticisms of the posse program included the following:
- A 2004 incident in which a half-dozen posse members (along with sheriff’s deputies) were involved in sexual activity while conducting a prostitution sting. As a result, the prosecutor was forced to reject dozens of cases of alleged prostitution that could not be brought to court.
- Arpaio’s “cold case posse” conducted a five-year investigation into the now debunked claim that then President Barack Obama’s birth certificate was not genuine.
- Despite Arpaio’s claim that taxpayer funds were not used for the posse program, many disagree. In fact, almost $10,000 of public money was spent to send a posse investigator to Hawaii to investigate the Obama birth certificate issue. Having a Maricopa County representative travel to Hawaii investigating the issue is bad enough. When you consider that the posse members were forbidden to conduct investigations, it becomes curious, to say the least.
- The sale of pink underwear with “Go Joe” and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s logo on them – a reference to the underwear required to be worn by residents of Tent City – was allegedly used to fund posse operations, but Arpaio has refused to provide an accounting of the money raised, and questions remain as to the funding of the posse operation.
- Arpaio instructed members of the posse to arrest illegal aliens, and he was accused of using the posses to unfairly target Hispanics. The racial profiling allegation was later proven true in federal court litigation.
What’s next for the posse groups? Well, for now, they’ll be reviewed. Questions concerning their necessity, the training of members, and how these groups will be held accountable are all on the table. We’ll venture a guess that some, perhaps most, of these groups will be disbanded when the review is concluded.
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