Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has deployed armed volunteer posse members into schools in his district and said he wants to recruit more citizens to the posse.
Arpaio launched the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Posse to patrol malls in 1993 in response to a number of violent incidents that happened at Valley shopping malls during the holiday season, according to Arpaio.
Arpaio said with the recent school shooting in Connecticut and a student in Maricopa County who recently threatened to shoot her classmates, he decided to move the posse from the malls to schools.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Arpaio said patrols started on Monday when students returned from break. Arpaio said his armed posse is currently patrolling at 59 elementary, middle and high schools. He said he doesn't have the resources at this time to be in every one of the more than 1,000 schools in Maricopa County.
Arpaio said the posse members will be armed in marked vehicles and will primarily be patrolling around the perimeter of the schools.
The sheriff said he hopes that the federal government will provide money to put an officer inside each school, but until then, he said he'll be using his posse.
Arpaio said they plan to continue the patrol through the end of the school year, and said he wants to recruit more citizens to his posse. He claimed they go through the same training as a deputy. He said the only difference is that they do the job for free, at no cost to taxpayers.
Arpaio said the posse "will have the authority to take any law enforcement action" at the schools.
Arpaio said he sent out a message to all the principals in the schools where his posse will be. He said there might be some principals who disagree with his decision.
"I'm going to do it anyway, because I have the authority," Arpaio said at the news conference.
Late last month, Arizona's attorney general Tom Horne proposed that no more than one person be trained and allowed access to a firearm at each school campus. Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu has proposed that school administrators and designated teachers be armed in schools.
Stay with cbs5az.com for updates on this developing story.