Volunteers donate time and effort to MCSO crime prevention posse in Queen Creek

 

George Vasquez has been part of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office crime prevention posse for almost 30 years.

At 14 years old, a near-death experience with a gang of men on his paper route gave him the desire to want to help those who couldn’t help themselves.

“I was robbed with a knife to my neck when I was young and at that point I decided I’m going to take that with a little bit of training and try to help those that can’t fight for themselves,” said Mr. Vasquez in a phone interview. “There was nothing I could do then, but now I have the training and experience to help others.”

He is not the only one determined to assist the public. The MCSO crime prevention posse has been helping the Queen Creek community for more than 20 years.

Who is the MCSO posse?

The posse is a nonprofit volunteer arm of the MCSO and is used to help assist deputies with traffic control, home patrols, search and rescue, search and assist warrants and security and community outreach at town events, among other things.

Victoria Romero has been serving in the posse for the last three years with her husband, Miguel Romero, and is familiar with its goals.

“The posse’s job is to help give a positive outlook on law enforcement,” said Mrs. Romero during an interview. “When something bad happens or someone needs help, we are here to help. We want people to always feel comfortable to come up to us.”

The posse has been an official part of the MCSO since the 1940s, but the Arizona State Constitution “recognized and defined a sheriff’s legal authority to organize posses” in 1912, according to the Queen Creek posse website, queencreekposse.org.

Posse Cmdr. John Powell, who has been serving in the posse for five years, is the first in the chain-of-command to communicate actions between the posse and the enforcement support division at MCSO.

He attends monthly meetings and makes sure each posse member is compliant and current on training.

He is aware that not many people in the community are familiar with the volunteer posse, but said in a phone interview how vital they are to the community and police force.

“I think we play a vital role and I think it’s very important to have those resources,” said Mr. Powell. “No. 1, there are a lot of activities we can backfill a full-time deputy in. Additionally, we act as (further) resources at events. We can also do regular patrol duties and vacation watch and having us there gives a higher level of saturation and visibility for crime prevention in the community.”

The QC posse has 13 members. In 2016, its members volunteered more than 5,000 hours of service to the community.

What it takes to be a member

“You have to want to volunteer,” said Mrs. Romero. “We don’t get paid or compensated for anything. We have to pay for our own uniform and all our equipment. I have a full-time job, but my spare time is spent volunteering because I enjoy helping my community.”

Those who’d like to volunteer can visit the MCSO website for an application. They also may attend the informational meeting that is held at 6:30 p.m. every third Wednesday of the month, except December, at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Training Center at 2627 S. 35th Ave. in Phoenix .

Prospective posse members be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen, have a valid Arizona driver’s license and must be in good health. All applicants will also be subject to background checks.

As part of the posse, members can train to be certified in three areas. The first is an administrative position. These members would learn basic CPR, law and legal responsibilities and take part in traffic control.

Further training to intermediate instructs in prisoner search and transport, booking, radio procedures and lawful use of force.

Those who wish to carry a firearm would train to become a QAP — a qualified arms posse member — and would be taught additionally in defensive tactics, the use of a Taser and firearms and rifle certifications.

Posse members provide valuable support to the MCSO by assisting with traffic control and security at local events, according to its website. Those who have earned their QAP can also assists in crime prevention patrols and give back-up to deputies on a variety of calls for help in the community.

What it means to be a posse member

Mr. Vasquez is QAP certified. He has been serving as a back-up volunteer officer to the same deputy since 1990 and has learned many great life lessons from volunteering for the posse.

“Backing up a deputy and being there for those guys is a (good) feeling,” said Mr. Vasquez. “It feels great when you’ve achieved something so important by being there for somebody who just had a heartbreak or experienced a tragedy.”

His advice to others who might consider volunteering is “to come in with your eyes wide open and your heart set” and to be there to help the community know they’ll be safe.

Mrs. Romero, who is qualified as an intermediate member of the posse, does everything from providing public relations for the posse to participating in a statewide DUI taskforce.

“One time I had to baby-sit a little dog,” said Mrs. Romero. “It was found with a woman who was sleeping in her car. The (officers) ended up taking her to the hospital to be treated and it was too late to have her dog taken anywhere so I just took him home and took care of him for about three days. I’ve had to help with children sometimes and always try to keep coloring books or stuffed animals in the patrol car.”

For ways to donate, visit the posse website at queencreekposse.org or visit its Facebook page at Maricopa County Sheriff’s Posse. Also, watch for posse booths at community events.

Editor’s note: Jamie Morris is a freelance writer for the Queen Creek Independent.

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