By Rusty Bradshaw
After several years of struggling with membership numbers, the Sun City Posse ranks are growing and that allows the all-volunteer group to expand its services.
During the years starting with District Judge G. Murray Snow’s court order for change to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the Posse began to lose some members and saw a drop in recruitment. The order lumped the MCSO sworn deputies and the volunteer posses into the same category, so new posse members had to take extended training and existing members were required to take annual training they had not taken previously.
Prospective members were reluctant to join because of these requirements, and the fact that some of the training was for tasks — like traffic stops and securing suspects — that Posse members would never be called on to perform.
That began to change almost immediately after Sun City Posse officials deaffiliated from MCSO in November 2017 and became a standalone entity.
“We started getting people joining in increasingly larger numbers,” said Mike Muphy, Posse building and grounds lieutenant and Posse commander in 2018.
The Posse was down to 49 patrol officers and less than 100 total membership in July 2017. But now the group has more than 130 total membership and more than 80 patrol officers, according to Danny Moore, Posse commander.
“Now that we have more members, we can do more — both in patrol and other services,” he said.
When he took the role as commander in January, Mr. Moore said his goal was to add 7-10 members per month. He said the agency is on track with that goal so far. During the March 5 general membership meeting, eight people received certificates recognizing their completion of training and about 10 more recruits are ready to take patrol training, riding with experienced officers to familiarize themselves with the routine.
The added members are timely as the Posse will begin to see an increase in Vacation Watch requests in April as winter visitors start to return to their summer homes. Vacation Watch is one of several traditional Posse services, with others including Block Watch, Funeral Watch, providing traffic control at Sun City events and providing informational workshops for residents.
“We performed more than 4,000 vacation watch patrols last year,” Mr. Moore said.
Posse officials are hoping to add even more to their ranks before Vacation Watch requests start to go up.
“We’ll be pushing to get another class trained by the last week in April,” said Joe Senselbaugh, Posse recruiting lieutenant.
New members are also assigned to one event at the Sun Bowl to serve as an observer before they are given the traffic control duty, according to John Soltis, Posse training lieutenant.
“We don’t want them out there until they’ve seen it in action,” he said.
The Posse conducted two additional services in February and March that would not have been possible with the reduced numbers it experienced before deaffiliation — an electronics take back and a hazardous waste take back. The latter, conducted March 9, was possible with the help of other sponsors.
Tom Mehlert, Arizona STRUT director, said 160 computers were taken during the electronics take back, and all items taken weighed 15,440 pounds. All electronics taken during the event are either repurposed or sold for scrap. Much of the repurposed items are donated to schools, according to Mr. Mehlert.
Information about items taken at the hazardous waste event March 9 were not available at press time.
These are just two additions to Posse services. Mr. Moore hopes to increase regular patrols and provide more services, and improve the agency’s operations. Posse officials are in the process of activating a new GPS locating system for Posse patrol cars to improve response times and ensure the safety of personnel in the event of any dangerous situations, according to information on the agency’s website, www.suncityposse.org.
“Everything we do takes quite a team effort, things don’t happen by accident,” Mr. Moore said. “We run this organization much like a business.”
The influx of members helped keep the Posse alive and able to serve the community, according to Mr. Murphy.
“It is great to get people involved again,” he said during his last meeting as commander in December 2018. “When I ran for the board there were seven openings and four candidates.”
For last year’s board, there were more candidates than openings.
Deaffiliating from MCSO did not sever ties completely between the organizations. As a standalone entity, the Posse operates in much the same way when it comes to MCSO, acting as the law enforcement agency’s eyes and ears in Sun City. The only difference is the Posse had to shed all visible connection with MCSO, meaning vehicle markings and uniforms had to be changed, and the Posse could no longer use MCSO radios and radio frequencies.
“We are still working closely with MCSO,” Mr. Murphy said. “And we are working closely with all other Sun City organizations. We are doing everything we can for the betterment of the community.”
The Posse owns its building and all the vehicles in its fleet. Even under the MCSO affiliation, the Posse did not receive funding from the sheriff’s office or any other governmental agency. Money to operate the Posse comes entirely from community donations, including a community-wide annual fund drive.
The Posse continues to meet 9 a.m. the first Tuesday of each month at Posse headquarters, 10861 W. Sunland Drive, for membership meetings.
The Sun City Posse was not the only agency to separate from MCSO. The Westbrook Village Posse in Peoria deaffiliated shortly after Sun City, adapting the same vehicle markings and uniforms as the Sun City group. The Sun City West Posse, however, remains affiliated with MCSO, but is now activating a second branch that has no ties to the sheriff’s office. This followed a weeks-long shutdown of all MCSO posses because it was discovered not all members had the proper paperwork, including background checks.