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Phoenix-area volunteer posse disassociates itself from MCSO

FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2013, file photo, parents from Anthem Elementary School stand with then Maricopa County Sheriffs Deputies and posse members, as they listen to Arpaio speak at Anthem Elementary School in Phoenix. A committee of community leaders appointed by Arpaio's successor, Sheriff Paul Penzone, said Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, that it has launched a review of the posse groups, which are lauded for saving taxpayers money but were criticized for serving as one of Arpaio's political tools.
LISTEN: Sun City Posse

PHOENIX — A Phoenix-area sheriff’s posse is removing its affiliation with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office after a set of new court orders put a burden on the group.

The Sun City Sheriff’s Posse will no longer be affiliated with the sheriff’s office starting Nov. 1. Members of the volunteer posse oversee programs like neighborhood watch and conduct welfare checks.

Mary Heiser, commander of the Sun City posse, said the group decided to end its affiliation with Maricopa County after it noticed a sizable decline in membership due to the burden that court-ordered training put on the group.

The training covered topics that included the Fourteenth Amendment, racial profiling and making arrests.

“None of that really pertains [to us.],” Heiser said, adding that the group lost a lot of members due to the mandatory training.

Heiser said the group is only able to patrol the area five days a week instead of seven and has been forced to downgrade its afternoon shift from three people to one person.

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said he understands why Heiser and other members are frustrated, but ensured that the sheriff’s office will continue to support and grow the Sun City program.

Penzone said a team is working to determine how to improve the posse’s services and be more progressive with recruitment efforts, while ensuring continuity between the county’s 35 volunteer posses.

“The community wants to make sure everyone is acting in a manner that meets expectations,” he said. “We will continue to evaluate and find more ways to improve.”

The process is “slow” and “methodical,” but is going “exceptionally well,” Penzone added.

The Sun City Sheriff’s Posse is the first to disaffiliate itself from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

In September, an oversight board began reviewing the use of volunteer posses in an effort to tighten up the management, organization and accountability within the groups.

Penzone wanted to review these volunteer groups once he took over office from Arpaio, but the arrest of a former posse member for allegedly holding a person at gunpoint during a neighborhood dispute emphasized the need for it.

However, Penzone stressed last month that his intention is to not shut down posses.

“My intention is to improve on the product and make sure that we have the right men and women participating in the right activities that support the needs of the community on behalf of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department,” Penzone said.

KTAR News’ Griselda Nevarez and Kathy Cline contributed to this report. 

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