Armed Arizona Posse Guards Schools: Vigilantes or Vigilance?

"The deputies do the heavy lifting," he says. "We do the clean-up work, you might say."

Bennett is prepared for the worst. But chances are slim that he will find himself in a situation precarious enough to warrant use of his weapons, he says. In his 10 years with the posse, he has not fired a single shot while on duty.

"I hope I never do, but in the event that that would happen, one must be trained in how to and when to," he adds.

Whatever the job, Bennett says his duty is to respond to the sheriff's orders and make sure "that I'm making contributions to the community."

With that in mind, the building contractor signed up for the posse a decade ago as he eased into semi-retirement. He went through various levels of training for nearly a year, including 100 hours on firearms alone to earn his certification. Like all posse members, he had to buy his uniform, guns, handcuffs, and other equipment. He spent about $3,000.

These days, Bennett devotes much of his time to the posse. Last year, he put in 2,000 hours on posse business, he says, about half on patrol and half on administrative work as commander of his area's volunteer group of some 60 members. They take turns watching for anything suspicious around 14 schools in the communities they patrol.

When children and school principals wave as he makes his rounds, he feels good about his service.

"As posse members, we are the eyes and ears of the community," he says.

Miles away, Luis Fuerte is at Frank Elementary School – one of 59 schools on the posse patrol list – to pick up his little boy and goddaughter. Recently, he was shaken by the arrest of a 10-year-old boy, who was threatening to stab a student at the school. So he has no qualms about having the posse keep an eye out.

"If my kids are safe, then that makes me feel a lot better," he says.

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