Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's armed volunteer posses are set to begin patrolling areas around Phoenix, Ariz. schools on Monday, more than a week after the plan drew national attention in the wake of the deadly mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Arizona's 3TV reports that Arpaio's volunteer force is comprised of around 3,000 members, some of whom have criminal pasts.
According to CBS5, Arpaio's office has provided a list of more than 50 schools in unincorporated Maricopa County that will be patrolled by the posses, which are in charge of providing all of their own weapons and equipment. The volunteers will not actually be posted on school campuses, but will instead monitor the areas around the facilities.
Posse member Jerry Johnson told 3TV that they'd be ready to fight crime if they felt they were needed.
“But if our lives were threatened or a child's life was threatened, a teacher’s life was threatened and we see that while on patrol, we would be prepared to take some kind of action,” he said.
The program is getting started as Arpaio prepares to be sworn in for his sixth term on Monday. The volunteer patrols will kick into full gear on Wednesday, and will be rolled out with a press conference.
Arpaio announced the move late last month, declaring that it was within his powers to mobilize the forces, and that he had full faith in his volunteers.
"Our posses are well trained with over 100 hours of how to use weapons [and] they have authority under the elected sheriff," Arpaio said. "I feel they'll be a great asset to schools around our area."
Arpaio isn't the only Arizona official to suggest using an increased armed presence to protect schools. State Attorney General Tom Horne suggested earlier this month that public schools should train and arm principals or other top administrators as an alternative to the costly prospect of stationing an armed police officer at each school.