By Rusty Bradshaw
The Sun City Posse is going back to its roots, but Sun City West Posse officials have no such plans.
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.”
For the Sun City West Posse, it is business as usual.
“We plan to continue to operate as we are now,” said Bob Carneio, Sun City West Posse commander. “Sun City’s decision would not affect us at all because we are separate organizations.”
The commander said while there may have been some chatter about such an option, no official discussions about it were conducted by Sun City West Posse leadership.
“We are still working with MCSO to find ways to ease the burdens of training,” Mr. Carneio said. “We believe that some of the required training is not warranted for what we do.”
PORA officials began an initiative to recruit volunteer licensed attorneys to help provide training in Sun City West, rather than require recruits to travel to downtown Phoenix. Arizona District 21 Sen. Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria) was trying last week to arrange a meeting with MCSO officials and Maricopa County District 4 Supervisor Clint Hickman to discuss the importance of the posses in senior communities. Because Sun City West and the Westbrook Village Posse in Peoria are not within her district, she hoped to include District 22 Sen. David Livingston (R-Peoria) in the meeting. No firm meeting date was set by press time.
Sun City West’s posse has about the same membership as Sun City, between 95-100, according to Mr. Carneio.
“I don’t know that we can do more than we already are for recruiting,” he said. “We do have a number of people who have turned in applications and we’re hoping to get them into the training as soon as possible.”
Sun City West Posse leaders plan to continue operations as they exist now until such time as they have to consider other options, according to Mr. Carneio.
“But I don’t see that happening,” he added.
Dropping the MCSO affiliation means the Sun City Posse 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 — in the Sun Cities and Westbrook Village.
“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.
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,” Mary Heiser, Sun City Posse commander, said.
Led by resident Andy Wagner, who worked in Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Blubaum’s office, the Sun City 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 following coming under the MCSO posse program umbrella, the Sun City Posse grew to a peak of 290 members in the late-1970s. Those total 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.