By Rusty Bradshaw
The Sun City Posse is going back to its roots.
Posse officials sent a letter to Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office leaders informing them the all-volunteer Sun City agency wants to end its affiliation with the county sheriff’s posse program. The Sun City organization leaders plan to continue offering the same services it has for years, but as a separate entity.
The affiliation is targeted to end Tuesday, Oct. 31.
“There is no bad blood between us and MCSO and this is not about the new sheriff,” said Roberta Lambin, Posse executive officer. “We just want to get back to our roots, which is providing service to our residents.”
Dropping the affiliation means the group will have new uniforms and their vehicle will no longer match MCSO’s. But little else will change — except the court ordered training that has been an anchor to recruitment for the past four years.
“Everyone knows it has been difficult for us because of the court order,” Ms. Lambin said. “We lose people normally because of age and illness. This has made it hard to recruit new members.”
Sun City Posse and MCSO officials met Oct. 6 to discuss the transition. Results of that meeting were not available at press time.
“We are hoping for a smooth transition,” said Tim Lambin, Posse board member.
Sun City Posse officials expect to continue a strong working relationship with MCSO, according to Danny Moore, Posse operations officer.
Led by resident Andy Wagner, who worked in Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Blubaum’s office, the Posse started in 1973 as a group to assist in the event of a disaster in the community. Resident Paul Morrill was chosen to lead the civil defense-type agency. The group was elevated to posse status by Maricopa County Sheriff Jerry Hill in 1976.
“It was just a bunch of guys patrolling with CB radios,” Ms. Lambin said.
Over the years after coming under the MCSO posse program umbrella, the Sun City Posse grew to a peak of 290 members in the late-1970s. Those totals slowly began to drop due to attrition. However, the sharpest decline in members came after District Judge G. Murray Snow’s Oct. 2, 2013 court order relating to the 2007 Melendrez racial profiling case against MCSO. Ms. Lambin said during her 2014 term as commander, there were 132 members manning various patrol shifts in the community. However, there are now less than 50 members available for patrol and less than 100 total Posse members, according to Mr. Moore.
Mr. Lambin said dropping the MCSO affiliation will allow the Posse to have more flexibility in recruiting members, and Posse leaders hope that will bring more prospective candidates to volunteer.
“We will continue to have background checks and the Posse will maintain its bylaws, rules and regulations,” Ms. Heiser said.
However, recruits will not be required to be vetted by MCSO, which is a long-drawn out process, according to Ms. Lambin.
“Now we hand a recruit an application and it is 29 pages long,” Ms. Lambin said. “The required training is also difficult for people because of the travel required and because the training includes a lot of things we don’t even do.”
Dropping the MCSO affiliation will mean starting over for the Sun City Posse.
“We are talking about survival,” Mr. Lambin said. “We will be rebuilding, but we are confident we can do that. We think we can do a better job.”
Mary Heiser, Sun City Posse commander, said the changeover is already in progress. Sheriff’s decals will be stripped from the existing fleet of vehicles and replaced with new ones reflecting the organization’s new look. Uniforms will also be changed.
“We own everything, so we don’t have to turn anything back to MCSO,” Mr. Lambin said.
He added all existing Posse programs — vacation watch, funeral watch, Block Watch and others — will remain in place after Oct. 31. The only task the agency will drop is traffic control at accidents and other law enforcement situations.
“That doesn’t really change much because we haven’t done that in a while because we have very few trained to do it,” Ms. Lambin said. “But we will still do things MCSO does not do.”
Sun City Posse officials believe their decision will be watched closely by other posses in age-restricted communities.
“Service by posses in age-restricted communities is limited,” Mr. Lambin said. “I expect they will be watching us closely.”