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FLORENCE — The Pinal County Board of Supervisors wants to hear more details and clarification regarding Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb’s new “citizens posse” at a future meeting.

After hearing from Lamb and a couple of citizens with concerns Wednesday, board Chairman Anthony Smith, R-Maricopa, directed the county manager to schedule the topic for a work session to educate the board and the public.

Lamb told PinalCentral last week the group is primarily a way to educate the public about police work, firearms, the law and how to protect themselves and their homes, in a four-hour course. But in extreme events, the group may also be called on to help enforce the law.

Lamb told the board Wednesday it could also be a source for recruiting volunteers, and perhaps even deputies, to the Sheriff’s Office.

Supervisor Pete Rios, D-Dudleyville, said he saw one presentation from Lamb that left the impression the sheriff was seeking citizen volunteers for “chasing bad guys,” then another video that sounded like it was “more of a citizens academy.” Rios asked which one is correct, and how it is being funded.

“I need more information,” Rios said. “I’m getting questions from citizens that I can’t answer.”

In a video Tuesday, Lamb said more than 1,500 people had contacted PCSO in the first few days after the program was announced. He said the office is transitioning to a new process for people to sign up in a digital form.

The board clerk also read comments from two citizens into the record. The first letter expressed strong reservations about the program and doubts that four hours of training would be enough on the topics to be covered.

She further asked why the program is being started. “Is Pinal County a hotbed of unrest? Are they preparing for the November elections?” she concluded, “This is a calculated plan to intimidate law-abiding citizens who exercise their First Amendment rights.”

The other commenter said she was “dumbfounded” that “this is even on the table” and added, “I don’t want a four-hour deputy with a gun in any circumstances.” She asked the board to consider the potential for accidents and abuses.

In other business Wednesday:

  • County Manager Louis Andersen reported “a major high-tech manufacturing project” is coming soon. “We can’t let you know any more than that, other than it’s in the Eloy area.”
  • Pinal County’s unemployment rate is 9.9%, which is lower than the national average and other areas of the state, but up 4.7% from last year. The size of the county’s labor force has decreased slightly, 1.3%, to 182,345 workers. The county has 3,283 businesses, an increase of 60 from a year ago, Andersen said. County employment is forecast to grow 1.4% per year, he said.
  • The board adopted air quality rules to minimize gasoline fumes in the Apache Junction 2008 ozone nonattainment area.
  • The board approved creation of a new deputy director position in Animal Care and Control. Director Audra Michael reminded the board that it approved four new positions for the department in May and said she is now ready to fill the deputy director position.
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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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