By Victor Skinner
PHOENIX – While educrats debate the merits of gun-free school zones, arming school personnel and other safety measures in the wake of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is taking action.
The Maricopa County Sheriff – famous for his controversial immigration enforcement – enlisted the help of more than 3,000 volunteers to patrol the parameters of 50 Phoenix-area schools. He’s also conducted simulated live shooter training at a vacant elementary school, according to media reports.
“Fortunately since we started this three months ago, there have been no incidents and it’s gone good with the public,” Arpaio said. “They love to see our cars roaming around and I have other plans coming up to further that operation, very soon.”
Arpaio’s civilian posse patrols around schools in marked cars and about 500 are authorized to carry a weapon as part of the position. Their presence comes as a relief for many parents, but the live shooter training has drawn protestors who’ve criticized what they’ve said is a lack of sufficient background checks for posse members, according to media reports.
Now, Arpaio is planning to expand his volunteer posse – which has attracted as many supporters as it has critics.
Salon, a left-wing political magazine, reports some of the posse members have checkered criminal histories.
Regardless, Arpaio’s unpaid volunteers are stepping up while others in the education establishment are still talking about how to protect students. Officials with the two largest teachers unions – the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association – believe the solution to school violence should be to limit access to weapons.
AFT President Randy Weingarten called a recent report from the National Rifle Association, which calls for arming school personnel, a “cruel hoax that will fail to keep our children and schools safe.”
While union opposition may keep some people from taking proactive steps to avoid a school shooting, Sheriff Arpaio isn’t one of those people. He told the media he plans to continue to send his posse to patrol around schools until those schools have the ability to properly protect themselves.
“If we have to take action, we will take action if there is some type of catastrophe that’s going to happen,” Arpaio said.