Residents are concerned as news spreads that all activities of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Posse have been suspended.
Betty Kirtley, 77, has lived in Sun City West 13 years and is concerned about the posse not being out patrolling. “I like the feeling that they go through the streets at nighttime. You feel more secure, especially when you're alone.”
At an open house celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Sun City West Posse Saturday, members of the posse and others in attendance told the Daily News-Sun they had learned about the suspension but did not know or declined to give specifics.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was at the event, told the Daily News-Sun that he plans to talk with county officials early in the week to get this resolved and doesn’t consider it “a story yet.” But, if nothing is resolved, then it will be “a big story,” the sheriff said.
MCSO public information officer Christopher Hegstrom said: “This is a preliminary posse decision relating to a county policy. The Sheriff’s Office is looking into the situation and reviewing the issues with county administrators.”
Recreations of Sun City West board member and Sun City West Fire District board Chairman David Wilson said the posse provides a “really good service to the community” and that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office “doesn't have that many officers patrolling around here.”
Wilson noted that even though the posse can't issue citations, having an officer present is good and they do a good job of protecting equipment and diverting traffic when there's an accident, and if the sheriff's office has to “designate a regular officer to come for that, it's really going to impact their coverage.”
In his opinion, Wilson believes “Sun City West is undermanned with the sheriff. That's why they still need the posse.” They are “eyes and ears” of sheriff's department.
Some residents of Sun City West said they received this email attributed to Sun City West Posse Commander Don Sampson:
“Effective immediately, on March 29, 2014 at 10:00 hours all activities of the Sheriff’s Posse of Sun City West were suspended.
The suspension will be in effect until such time as the command staff resolve open issues. The command staff will be sending out periodic emails to keep you apprised of the situation.
We would like to thank everyone for their patience and support during this difficult time.
Commander Don Sampson”
Members of the posse told ABC15 that Sun City, Sun City West, and Westbrook Village posse members were sent home indefinitely. They said it could have something to do with posse members not being covered under the county’s insurance, although they contend they were covered since the posse program started.
Waddell is patrolled by by the Sun City West Posse and Penny Reeve-Griffith, 66, who lives in the area of Cotton Lane and Olive Avenue understands the legal side of it and why county officials would be worried about the insurance side of the issue.
“We're talking about a monetary expenditure” and Reeve-Griffith doesn't know how they would go about resolving that, and whether posse members can get individual insurance.
“County taxpayers should bear the cost of insuring the posse.” She added that the posse is already volunteering their time “and that's no cost to the county.”
With the “service they're providing, someone's going to have to figure that out,” Reeve-Griffith said.
A 15-year resident of Sun City, Steven Pelletier, 71, said it's nice to have the posse check in on people's homes when they're gone. “Without them, there'd be less protection. I'm sure things would be broken into a lot more.”
He said as volunteers, they should be protected to some degree with insurance coverage and as a county taxpayer, he would be ok with paying it.
On the other hand, Dione Karo, owner of Monty's Furniture and Consignment Store in Sun City, would like to know what the cost would be before she would support paying more taxes; and would it take money away from other programs even though the posse makes them feel safe, “knowing they can get to the property quickly.”
“They do the little things that you don't want to trouble a 911 operator for.” Karo is hoping for a resolution. “I hope they can find some kind of happy medium.”