Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb is offering a free four-hour course for members of the public who want to learn more about the sheriff’s office and how they might be able to help protect their homes and communities.
Upon completion of the Citizens Posse class, graduates receive an ID card identifying them as a member, and there’s a possibility they may be called out to help the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office during emergencies.
Since the program was first announced at the end of July, some 3,000 applications have come in. Though enrollment is not restricted to Pinal County residents they make up the vast majority of those who have applied, PCSO spokeswoman Lauren Reimer said.
She said about 200 applicants are from Maricopa, Pima or other Arizona counties, while about 80 are from out of state and three from out of the country.
The first in-person class was held Aug. 15, with 17 students. Reimer said the department is hoping to keep class sizes at 20 or below. As of press time, the department was still working to finalize an online version to reach more applicants.
The course includes sections on constitutional law, search and seizure procedures, home protection measures, firearms safety and use of deadly force. Participants spend time in a simulator where such decisions must be made.
“Our new Citizens Posse is first and foremost a citizens academy-type program where residents can come to learn more about how and why officers and deputies do what they do,” Reimer said.
Lamb said during an August Pinal County Supervisors meeting the idea came out of the racial justice protests and riots which began in late May.
“I’ve heard nothing on the national level but that we need to reach out more to our communities, and this is a great way to do that,” he said. Educating residents on what law enforcement officers do could also head off any discussion locally about “defunding” police and the sheriff’s office, he added.
Some supervisors asked questions, which they said were inspired by concerns from the public.
District 3 Supervisor Steve Miller asked, “These citizens also are available to be called out (for emergencies)?”
Lamb said, “Supervisor Miller, with all due respect, you’re available to be called out. As the sheriff, I’m able to command the aid of all inhabitants of Pinal County.”
Laughing, Miller said, “I get it. I’ll turn this off,” holding up his cellphone.
The posse classes are being funded by the department’s community relations budget, Lamb said, because most of the events it had planned on holding have been canceled.
PCSO is continuing to accept applications. All applicants will be put through a basic background check and are asked to disclose any history of felony convictions, though this isn’t an automatic disqualifier.
To apply, visit www.pinalcountyaz.gov/Sheriff/Organizations/Pages/CitizensPOSSE.aspx