Responding to calls from the National Rifle Association to arm teachers and school officials, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio vowed to deploy his gun-toting volunteers to monitor Arizona schools. Members of the 3,450-strong group began patrolling in January, and the sheriff’s office announced recently that the program will continue into next year. But the thing is, no schools have actually requested this service from Sheriff Joe, and it’s easy to understand why.
Local news affiliate KPHO reported on Arpaio’s “posse” and found that, in the past, the sheriff has hired sex offenders, domestic abusers and other members with criminal records to “serve and protect” the Phoenix-area.
Let’s start with Dominic Boulter, a former member who was arrested — and convicted — for crimes against children.
“Boulter began using an online service called Phonezoo.com in early 2005 to meet young girls between 13 and 17 years old. Boulter ultimately exchanged nude photos and text messages with at least eight underage girls from around the country. Boulter also suggested that he meet the girls in person to engage in sex acts and to get married, according to court documents.
During the encounters, Boulter told the girls he was 15 years old, 27 years old and 32 years old, according to the document.
Boulter admitted to detectives that he had sent harmful images to one underage girl and that he chatted with another via text message and Web cam as he encouraged the child to masturbate, according to court documents.”
And Jacob Cutler, another member of the group Arpaio organized to “save our kids,” has been charged with domestic violence, according to CBS:
“According to a Flagstaff police report, Cutler threw his girlfriend to the ground and choked her while trying to sexually assault her in 2008. When she didn’t cooperate, he allegedly threatened to call police and said they would side with him, because he ‘has a badge.’”
And what if the Phoenix-area community doesn’t want a poorly vetted group that has included child-sex offenders and violent abusers among its ranks hanging around their kids’ schools? Too bad, says Sheriff Joe.
“It doesn’t matter whether they like it or don’t,” he told ABC News. “I’m still going to do it. I can’t imagine criticism coming when they’re given free protection.”
And, because it’s Arpaio, the story just keeps getting weirder. The sheriff hired washed-up action hack Steven Seagal to provide weapons training to his crew. In a press conference on Saturday, Seagal defended his qualifications to a room of baffled reporters:
“I’ve put hundreds of thousands if not millions of hours into my weapons training,” adding he would do “anything” to protect Arizona’s children.
“They are our most precious asset,” he said. “They are our treasures and we have to protect them.”
Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at email@example.com.