A Couple Reasons for Concern About Arizona’s School-Protection Posses

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1. Posse members received training from Steven Seagal.

While it may make some Phoenix parents a little nervous to know that thousands of heavily armed volunteers are patrolling around schools in Maricopa County, it must have calmed their nerves to know that these people are being trained at least in part by famous tulku and former action hero Steven Seagal.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio organized the posses after the shootings in Newtown and the arrest of a kid in Mesa, Arizona, who allegedly planned to attack a school there. The idea of protecting students with armed guards is controversial for a number of reasons, but I don't think the objections include "need more training from former movie stars first." But if anybody has raised that concern, they must surely be satisfied now.

On Feb. 9, ABC News reported that "Steven Seagal, 60, star of 'Above the Law' and 'Under Siege,' will lead members of the Arizona sheriff's volunteer posse through a simulated school shooting today." According to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, volunteers would learn "operating procedures on how to handle one, two and three shooter scenarios as well as room entry tactics and hand to hand combat." Sadly, the MCSO appears to have spent its entire budget on hiring Seagal, thus leaving no funds for hyphenation, but there is little doubt they got their money's worth given that Seagal has single-handedly cleared entire gangs of actors posing as terrorists out of sets representing a battleship and a train.

More recently, Seagal has deployed as the star of a reality show, "Steven Seagal: Lawman." In that series he claims he's actually been a "reserve" deputy in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, for a number of years, and that he has been certified by the California and Louisiana branches of an organization that accredits police officers. According to the Los Angeles Times, though, that organization has no record of him. His most famous exploit on that show was in March 2011, when he participated in a raid on an alleged cockfighting operation for which he arrived, for some reason, riding in a tank. A lawsuit by the target of the raid was recently dismissed after he conceded the allegations were true, which still doesn't explain why Steven Seagal or a tank were necessary.

Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal: Armed Buddhist Monk

In a press conference last weekend, Seagal defended his law-enforcement qualifications to reporters. "I've put hundreds of thousands if not millions of hours into my weapons training," Seagal said, a statement that caused legal-humor bloggers across America to grab wildly for their calculators. One million hours is more than 114 years. Even discounting the "if not millions" part, the statement still claims a minimum of 200,000 hours, or nearly 23 years of 24/7 weapons training. Maybe Seagal is including his prior incarnations ("tulku" means reincarnated Buddhist holy man), but either way, this is certainly a solid commitment.

Still, there is some reason to question, I think, how much the posse members may have gained from this training session. On the other hand, I should let you know that Seagal has said that in his opinion anyone who criticizes him or Arpaio for this is an "embarrassment to the human race," so there is that.

2. Posse members are reportedly not too well vetted.

Speaking of embarrassments to the human race, some of those may be out there patrolling the schools. According to a local TV station's investigation, the roughly 3500 posse members include "a number … with arrests for assault, drug possession, domestic violence, sex crimes against children, disorderly conduct, impersonating an officer—and the list goes on." The report didn't say what the "number" actually was, but claimed that an investigation of about 2000 members found "dozens of different crimes."

As you probably noticed, they included "sex crimes against children," not the kind of background you would prefer for someone who is patrolling around local schools while heavily armed. Though it could explain why that person was willing to volunteer.

It could also explain why, according to Salon, none of the schools in Maricopa County have actually asked for posse protection. But they are gettin' it anyway. "It doesn't matter whether they like it or don't," Sheriff Arpaio told ABC. "I'm still going to do it. I can't imagine criticism coming when they're given free protection." Really, he should at least be able to imagine it.

Granted, you can also imagine bad apples within a police force, or just the community at large, and it's hard to say how extensive this particular posse problem is. But it is also not too hard to imagine a thousands-strong volunteer posse made up of unvetted, armed amateurs who are given access to schools causing more problems than it solves. Even if you have them tutored by Steven Seagal first.