Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio plans to expand his armed civilian posse in Arizona, KJZZ public radio reported Monday.
Arpaio's volunteer armed posse -- which launched in January following the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre that left 20 children and six educators dead -- was established to patrol regions surrounding some 50 Phoenix-area schools. The group of roughly 3,000 volunteers sparked controversy when reports revealed the criminal pasts of some of its members, including a convicted child-sex offender.
Despite some concerns, Arpaio says the group has been largely well-received, and that residents "love" seeing the armed volunteer posse patrolling the region.
"Fortunately since we started this three months ago, there have been no incidents and it’s gone good with the public," Arpaio said. "They love to see our cars roaming around and I have other plans coming up to further that operation, very soon."
A January Huffington Post survey of Arizona readers found that roughly two-thirds of respondents said they did not feel safer under Arpaio's program.
Arpaio's push for amplified civilian patrol around school perimeters comes just days after a report funded by the National Rifle Association recommended increasing the presence of armed guards in schools. The report, titled "Report of the National School Shield Task Force" and compiled by the NRA-backed task force the School Shield Program, also suggested that teachers be properly trained and armed "if there is personnel that has interest."
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, voiced strong opposition to the report's recommendations last week, calling the proposal a "cruel hoax that will fail to keep our children and schools safe."
"Schools must be safe, nurturing learning environments for our students, which is why we are opposed to proposals to arm educators or turn our schools into armed fortresses," Weingarten said in a statement. "Safety personnel and safety plans have their place in schools, but we must leave those decisions to the people who know our schools best -- not to those acting as a proxy for gun manufacturers."