Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio dispatched his volunteer posses to resume patrolling near schools this week, the continuation of a policy that drew scrutiny in the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., last school year.
The Associated Press reports that the law enforcement volunteers will be armed, uniformed and given marked sheriff's vehicles to patrol "in the vicinity of elementary, middle and high schools in the sheriff's jurisdiction." They'll be responsible for a region that includes some 50 Phoenix-area schools, most of them outside incorporated cities.
Arpaio's office says the goal is to put extra forces in school areas to provide a "heavy visual presence" to discourage potential violence, but also to be available to respond to any incidents.
Arpaio launched the program in January as a response to the mass shooting that left 26 dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School late last year. The volunteer force is composed of around 3,000 members, some of whom reportedly have criminal pasts, a fact that added fuel to the controversy. Arpaio appeared unfazed by the report, however, announcing that he trusted his posse members, despite some of their checkered pasts.
"There is no one in this country that has thousands of posse men and women doing the job on volunteerism," said Arpaio, according to KPHO. "I have confidence in them. I have faith in them and I am going to continue to run the posse and hire more posse."