Sheriff's Posse Volunteers Help Keep Community Safe

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Long hours spent guarding goodness knows what on cold nights, freezing flood waters, desolate locations, little recognition, no pay and sometimes even dealing with unruly individuals bent on pushing a situation to its limit -- these are often the challenges faced by sheriff's posse volunteers in Rim Country.

To top it off, they have limited authority and do not carry firearms to protect themselves, while sometimes placing themselves in the line of danger with more concern for the safety of the community than their own.

It may sound cliché, but that is the kind of spirit found among members of the Gila County Sheriff's Posse.

Some 41 years after its inception, the Gila County Sheriff's Posse still provides an invaluable service to both the community and the sheriff's department.

No, they don't give law enforcement more certified officers issuing citations and arresting lawbreakers.

What the posse does is provide extra manpower that allows the certified officers to serve more in a strictly law enforcement capacity.

Among the myriad duties the posse performs is perimeter security at special events, color guard and escort during parades, and guarding things like temporary power cables for the power company when needed.

After recent heavy winter rains washed away power lines along Tonto Creek, the sheriff's posse spent countless hours guarding temporary cables to ensure that residents would continue receiving electricity.

These services might sound trivial to some, but the truth is that because of the things the Gila County Sheriff's Posse does, deputies spend more time enforcing the law and keeping communities safe.

Furthermore, the sheriff's posse provides these services on a volunteer basis. Not a single penny of compensation comes to the posse from either the county or state.

So where does the money come from?

Well, primarily from the pockets of its members.

But before you jump the gun and presume that members must have extra money to be able to keep the posse going, think again. Most are retired, semi-retired or moderate- to low-income people.

They continue volunteering for the sheriff's department because of the heartfelt obligation they feel to give back to a community that members say has given so much to them, said Gila County Sheriff's Posse Lieutenant Robert Schwenke.

Gila County Sheriff's Posse

Founded: 1967

Officers: Capt. Pete Orlando, Lt. Rob Schwenke, recorder Jan Zittle, treasurer Larry Briggs

For information, contact: Pete Orlando at (928) 595-2869, Larry Cory at (928) 474-2208 or Inger LeGrande at (928) 472-9345 or visit gilacountysheriffsposse.org.

Purpose: to serve the Sheriff's Office and the people of Gila County.

Meeting dates: the second Tuesday of every month

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