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Sheriff Joe Arpaio's bid to make schools safer: armed posse patrols nearby

In the wake of the Connecticut shooting, Joe Arpaio, who describes himself as America's toughest sheriff, announces a plan to have armed volunteers patrol the areas near schools in Maricopa County, Ariz.

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In this October 2012 file photo, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks during a campaign rally in Mesa, Arizona. Arpaio, who describes himself as America's toughest sheriff, offers bid to make schools safer.

Joshua Lott/Reuters

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In a bid to bolster school safety after the Sandy Hook shooting, a posse of armed volunteers in the Phoenix vicinity will patrol the areas near schools.

It’s the latest undertaking of Joe Arpaio, who describes himself as America’s toughest sheriff.

“I want everybody to know we’re there,” explains Sheriff Arpaio, who will outline his plan at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

The posse patrols in Maricopa County come as educators, authorities, politicians, and others across the United States grapple with ways to keep students safe in light of the Dec. 14 shooting that killed 20 children and six adults in a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. The national discussion has included such controversial options as allowing teachers to carry guns and placing armed guards on school grounds.

Sixty-four percent of Americans support increasing a police presence in schools, while 29 percent oppose it, according to a Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll conducted Jan. 2-7. Eight percent of respondents said they were “not sure.”

To the sheriff of Arizona’s most populous county, a quick solution seemed obvious: post uniformed, gun-carrying posse volunteers in marked cars near schools for high visibility.

“We’ve got some [volunteers] with automatic weapons; I’m not afraid to say that,” Arpaio says.

The areas around some 50 schools under the jurisdiction of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office will be patrolled, but the sheriff wouldn’t divulge the exact number of volunteers to be deployed. Up to 400 of the posse members are trained and certified to carry firearms, as are roughly 100 reserve deputies who also may take part in the daily patrols through the end of the school year.

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