Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is taking seriously his oath to protect the citizens of his county, particularly in fighting illegal immigration. On Wednesday, he deputized 56 members of a new, armed volunteer sheriff’s posse, including some famous personages.
Maricopa County is in the south central part of Arizona (county seat: Phoenix), about 100 miles from the international border with Mexico. Nearly 3,000 volunteers have played a part in Sheriff Arpaio’s posse.
The posse is formed from people of diverse backgrounds, including lawyers, realtors, and retired cops, now, even movie stars. One of those sworn in was Lou Ferrigno, best known as star of the Incredible Hulk
. Other posse
members are Peter Lupus (Mission Impossible
), and Steven Seagal, though they were not sworn in Wednesday.
The posse will serve in a support role, specializing in helping deputies enforce immigration laws, and their duties will include patrols, bringing arrestees to jail, and handling demonstrators interfering with immigration patrols.
Law enforcement budgets are being cut and agencies are losing personnel and yet the battle to stop illegal immigration must continue. Arizona is the busiest port of entry for people being smuggled in from Mexico, Latin and South America. So asking for the public’s help in this endeavor makes sense, especially given the success the posses have experienced over the years.
Detractors say Arpaio is just posturing for political reasons.
Seagal is a sworn deputy in New Orleans. Ferrigno lives in California and serves as a reserve deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office. He says the Arizona posses can help protect the country against drug and immigrant smugglers. At Wednesday’s ceremony Ferrigno added, "I must warn you that we are in for a rude awakening, because this country right now is in a lot of danger."
Other volunteers just want to do something before it gets out of control.
Arpaio said each year the volunteer posses work thousands of hours and also donate vehicles, planes, and helicopters to the sheriff’s office, as well as a variety of professional services, saving taxpayers millions of dollars annually.
People from all walks of life have contacted my office saying they want to help me in this fight in some way. This is how they can do that — by being members of a volunteer posse with the specific aim of fighting illegal immigration and lending their particular expertise to the fight.
About Seagal, Ferrigno, and Lupus, he said:
These guys are busy with their acting careers, so I don’t expect them to be here on duty very often. But they can be instrumental in heightening public awareness of the immigration issue and encouraging others to join the posse’s effort to help reduce the flow of illegal immigrants into our communities.
Sheriff Arpaio, dubbed America’s Toughest Sheriff, is fighting Justice Department allegations of discrimination against illegal immigrants during arrest, in addition to the lawsuit filed by the Justice Department against Arizona’s recent immigration law S.B. 1070.
As the ultimate law-enforcement official in any county, a sheriff bears a huge responsibility. The Toughest Sheriff concluded:
Let’s face it — my deputies are outnumbered, so the more volunteers we can get trained and out on the streets to fight illegal immigration, the better off we will be to fight it.
Photo of Lou Ferrigno: AP Images