Posse, Rescue Squad Make Life Easier For Deputies


County taxpayers are spared thousands of dollars a year courtesy of volunteers who assist the sheriff's office, Gila County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Craig Smith said.

Deputies are able to call upon the Gila County Sheriff's Posse and Tonto Rim Search and Rescue in the event support is needed.


Tonto Rim Search and Rescue responded when a 16-year-old fell to his death off the side of the Mogollon Rim in October. Squad members rappelled 350 feet to retrieve the teen's body.

"Our volunteers are invaluable," Smith said. "Anytime we need help -- they come."

Sheriff's Posse

Past posse captain Lorne Cory and current posse captain Pete Orlando made a presentation for students in the GCSO Citizen's Academy about what the posse does. The academy is a series of seminars and activities that educate students on many aspects of law enforcement.

Cory, who has been with the posse for eight years, gave an overview of how members assist the sheriff's office and other agencies if needed.

The posse assisted with evacuations in Heber during the Rodeo-Chedeski Fire as part of a mutual aid agreement, he said.

"We secure crime scenes, anything from drugs, homicides, home invasions we keep the news media out and people from disturbing the scenes," he said.

Cory said posse volunteers are able to choose how they want to assist the sheriff's office.

"Posse members can help in the office if they want," Cory said. "They can work in the jail and transport prisoners to Globe or Phoenix."

Members receive specialized training and certification for duties like prisoner transport.

Orlando said the posse meets once a month and members must attend at least half of the meetings. Applicants must pass a background check and not have any felonies on their record to join the posse.

"We are looking for new members," Orlando said. "It's a great group of people."

Applications for the posse are available at the sheriff's office at 108 W. Main Street. Interested people may e-mail Cory or Orlando at paysonposse@yahoo.com.

Tonto Rim Search and Rescue

Members of Tonto Rim Search and Rescue are frequently called out to work in the field with deputies on some of the more dramatic work, such as rope rescues and lost hikers.

Tonto Rim SAR is a self-supporting, non-profit organization which operates under the jurisdiction of the sheriff's office.

Dave Pirtle is the current commander of the organization.

"Our squad gets no money except from donations and fund-raisers," Pirtle said. "Only during an official mission are we considered deputies for the sheriff and we are not law enforcement providers."

Squad members can receive extensive training on everything from how to find your way in the wilderness to rope rescue. Training also covers different types of searches and techniques.

Five members of the squad are trained and certified in rope rescues.

"Rope rescue is probably the most dangerous thing that we do," Pirtle said. "We have five members who are trained in team rope rescue techniques. We do a lot of training in this area."

This past fall, squad members repelled hundreds of feet to retrieve the body of a 16-year-old boy who had fallen off the side of the Rim.

Yet, you don't have to be an adrenaline junkie to help out in Tonto Rim SAR, according to Pirtle.

The squad meets at 7 p.m. the second Thursday of every month at the Payson library.

"If you are interested at all in joining search and rescue, you need to come to a meeting and find out what we are about," Pirtle said.

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