There has been some confusion about the legal status of the Cold Case Posse. Are they a private group separate and apart from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, or are they bona fide law enforcement officers. The following may provide some help in sorting this out. First, Wiki provides a basic overview:
In Arizona, a sheriff is an elected official and the chief law enforcement officer in any given county. There exists one sheriff for each of Arizona’s 15 counties, with a varying number of deputies and assorted staff (usually dependent on population). A sheriff’s office (the term “department” is not used in Arizona) generally provides law enforcement services to unincorporated towns and cities within the boundaries of their county. In addition, many sheriff’s offices have agreements with the Arizona Department of Corrections (AZDOC) and local police agencies to provide for the transport and detention of prisoners. After sentencing, many convicted persons are handed over to the AZDOC to serve their sentence, but this has not always been the case.
Arizona is unique in that many sheriff’s offices have formed semi-permanent posse units which can be operated as a reserve to the main deputized force under a variety of circumstances, as opposed to solely for fugitive retrieval as is historically associated with the term.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is the currently the largest sheriff’s office in Arizona with a total of 763 sworn officers and 2,735 civilian employees as of 2007. It is headed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
These powers are granted by the Arizona Revised Statutes 11-441, found here:
Here is what they provide, with bolding by me:
11-441. Powers and duties
A. The sheriff shall:
1. Preserve the peace.
2. Arrest and take before the nearest magistrate for examination all persons who attempt to commit or who have committed a public offense.
3. Prevent and suppress all affrays, breaches of the peace, riots and insurrections which may come to the knowledge of the sheriff.
4. Attend all courts, except justice and municipal courts, when an element of danger is anticipated and attendance is requested by the presiding judge, and obey lawful orders and directions issued by the judge.
5. Take charge of and keep the county jail, including a county jail under the jurisdiction of a county jail district, and the prisoners in the county jail.
6. Endorse upon all process and notices the year, month, day, hour and minute of reception, and issue to the person delivering it, on payment of fees, a certificate showing the names of the parties, title of paper and time of reception.
7. Serve process and notices in the manner prescribed by law and certify under the sheriff’s hand upon the process or notices the manner and time of service, or if the sheriff fails to make service, the reasons for failure, and return them without delay. When returnable to another county, the sheriff may enclose such process or notices in an envelope, addressed to the officer from whom received, and deposit it postage prepaid in the post office. The return of the sheriff is prima facie evidence of the facts stated in the return.
8. Secure, as soon as possible, the home of a deceased person located outside the boundaries of an incorporated city or town if the sheriff is unable to determine or locate the heirs or executor of the deceased person.
B. The sheriff may in the execution of the duties prescribed in subsection A, paragraphs 1 through 4 command the aid of as many inhabitants of the county as the sheriff deems necessary.
C. The sheriff shall conduct or coordinate within the county search or rescue operations involving the life or health of any person, or may assist in such operations in another county at the request of that county’s sheriff, and may request assistance from any persons or agencies in the fulfillment of duties under this subsection.
D. The sheriff, in the execution of the duties prescribed in this section, may request the aid of volunteer posse and reserve organizations located in the county.
E. The sheriff may assist in the execution of the duties prescribed in this section in another county at the request of that county’s sheriff.
F. The sheriff may require any prisoner who is on work release to reimburse the county for reasonable expenses incurred in connection with the release.
G. The board of supervisors of a county bordering the Republic of Mexico may adopt an ordinance pursuant to chapter 2 of this title allowing the sheriff to prevent the entry from this state into the Republic of Mexico at the border by any resident of this state who is under eighteen years of age if the minor is unaccompanied by a parent or guardian or does not have written consent for entry from a parent or guardian. The authority of the sheriff is only to prevent entry and not to otherwise detain the minor. This subsection shall not be construed to limit the authority of the sheriff pursuant to any other law. A county is not civilly or criminally liable for not adopting an ordinance pursuant to this subsection.
H. Notwithstanding section 13-3112, the sheriff may authorize members of the sheriff’s volunteer posse who have received and passed firearms training that is approved by the Arizona peace officer standards and training board to carry a deadly weapon without a permit while on duty.
From that, we learn that there are two ways that the Sheriff can raise a posse. The first, under ARS 11-441(B), is a call upon any inhabitant for the limited purposes defined in items 1 through 4 above. For example, these posses can not act to serve summons or legal papers or help operate the jail.
The second method, under ARS 11-441(D) is to call upon the members of volunteer posse and reserve organizations located in the county. This appears to be a call to an organization, not upon individual citizens. Interestingly under Paragraph H, these persons may be permitted to carry firearms.
The next source of information is nominally from a non-official website, that is specific enough that it appears non-official in name only. It may be found here:
Here are some excerpts:
TRAINING SECTION STAFF
Deputy Jesus Jerez
Chief Lead Instructor
Officer Steve Spidell
There are currently 4 training levels available for Posse Members:
- Advanced (APT)
- QAP (Qualified Armed Posseman)
All Posse members shall schedule their training needs through their assigned Training Officer within their own Posse by using the Training Request Form (TRF).
All class enrollment requests shall be handled by the Training Officers.
The Training Officer will complete the training request form with all required information. Once the form is complete, the Training Officer will submit the form to Ms. Phyllis Rees by faxing it to 602-442-5102 or submitting it via email to P_Rees@MCSO.maricopa.gov for approval and class confirmation. Once the Training Officer has received a confirmation regarding the requested training, they shall forward that information back to the Posse Member.
Training Request Forms are available through your training officer. An electronic version of the TRF is available by contacting the Posse Training Section.
A TRF must be submitted for any training event. Training forms that are incomplete will be returned. All training forms must include an emergency contact.
We ask that only the assigned Training Officer’s contact the Training Division to enroll their members in a training event.
Students are highly encouraged to bring their approved TRF to cklass with them in the event their name was accidently omitted from an event roster.
So, there appears to be much interaction between the posses and MCSO. After providing details and requirements of each level, you get to this:
Qualified Armed Posse Training
This level of training is available to Intermediate or Advanced (not Basic) Posse members who apply and are accepted into the Qualified Armed Posse (QAP) Academy:
Defensive Tactics 8 Hours Mechanical Restraints 8 Hours Chemical Agents 4 Hours Search & Booking 4 Hours Prisoner Transport 4 Hours Weapons Retention 12 Hours Firearms 60 Hours Judgemental Use of Force 1 Hour Total Training Hours 101 Hours
Posse personnel who successfully complete this block of training will be classified as a Qualified Armed Posse (QAP) member.
Summary of course descriptions
Defensive Tactics: This course expands on skills learned in the Advanced course and introduce the student to additional strikes, control holds, and takedowns. Ground defense techniques, kicks, and the application of pressure points that are currently authorized by Sheriff’s Office will also be covered. A proficiency exam will be administered.
Mechanical Restraints: This course will expand on skills learned in the Advanced course. Students will be introduced to the tactical use of handcuffs during high-risk situations.
Chemical Agents: This course covers the use, effects, and decontamination for the defensive spray currently authorized for use by the Sheriff’s Office. Use of force, liability issues, as well as a history of chemical agents will be discussed. A student exposure to the agent will be administered along with a written and practical exam.
Search & Booking: This course introduces students to the computerized booking system used to book a prisoner into the jail system as well as the proper techniques and safety considerations for searching a prisoner.
Weapons Retention: This course covers the various handgun retention and disarming techniques that are currently authorized for use by uniformed Sheriff’s Office Posse personnel. Use of force, liability issues, and other related topics will be discussed.
Firearms: Topics covered in this course will include the manipulation, use, care, and maintenance of the student’s service handgun. Marksmanship with both the service handgun and Office owned shotgun will be discussed. Students will be introduced to various shooting positions, night firing techniques, reloads, and malfunction drills. The judicial use of deadly force, liability issues, mental conditioning and tactics will also be discussed. Written and proficiency exams will be administered.
Judgmental Use of Force (MILO): The Firearm Training Simulator will test the student’s knowledge in the proper decision making and correct utilization of force, as well as the ability to justify the selected course of action.
NOTE: It is highly recommended that any Posse member wanting to apply for the QAP academy attend the Advanced Posse Training courses prior to applying for the academy.
Obviously from this, some posse members are out on the front lines of law enforcement. All in all, this is a very interesting read, and apparently they have the whole posse thing down to fine art. There is also this bit of history:
What is the Posse?
– A Brief History – The modern day Sheriff’s Posse has its roots in Saxon England over 11 centuries ago. In those days, the Reeve was the king’s officer and representative in each shire or county. The Shire Reeve, from which the word Sheriff has evolved, had the authority to enlist the assistance of males of the county, above the age of fifteen, to assist him in keeping the peace or in the apprehension of criminals. To do this, he would raise a “hue and cry” to summon residents, who were obligated to respond to the Sheriff’s call. This group was know as the Posse Comitatus, which is Latin for “power or force of the county”. This system was brought to the new world with the colonists who elected sheriffs as the first law enforcement officials in their new land, over 100 years before the start of the Revolutionary War. To this day, Sheriffs, who are the chief law enforcement officials for most counties, have the authority to raise a posse.
“The posse is an old idea, born in the Old West when the sheriff would deputize a band of local citizens to mount up and help him catch the crooks who had just robbed the stagecoach. Today the Sheriff’s Posse in Maricopa County, Arizona, is an authentic, crime-fighting force. Over 2,500 men and women, have taken the official course and gotten themselves deputized to serve as more or less fully functioning cops, wearing real uniforms, driving real police cars. The posse is the best way, in every sense of the word, that I know to make our communities safer, better places to live.” [Taken from the book “Sheriff Joe Arpaio America’s Toughest Sheriff”, Pgs 97 & 100 ]
I think this sums it up:
Today the Sheriff’s Posse in Maricopa County, Arizona, is an authentic, crime-fighting force. Over 2,500 men and women, have taken the official course and gotten themselves deputized to serve as more or less fully functioning cops, wearing real uniforms, driving real police cars.
When I have more time I want to investigate why the posses are constituted as organizations. Maybe it is for insurance purposes. I do not know if individual posse members have workers’ comp insurance, for example. And, some states limit the damages that can be assessed against charitable organizations. So, there are still a few questions. But I think I have answered the question I set out to answer. The posses are cops.
Also, while I poke fun at the Cold Case Posse, that does not mean that all the other posses should be lumped into the same category. For example, The Search and Rescue Posses probably do fine work, and save many lives. In general, the whole posse system seems like a good idea to me. Of course, any group of people is as good as the people at the top, so when Arpaio eventually rides off into the sunset, many of the problems will hopefully abate.