'Toughest sheriff' Arpaio of Arizona and actor Seagal to train posse to defend schools
PHOENIX — The self-proclaimed “America's Toughest Sheriff” is joining forces this weekend with action movie star Steven Seagal to train volunteer armed posse members to defend Phoenix-area schools against gunmen.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced the controversial plan in the wake of the December Newtown, Conn., school shooting that left 27 people dead, including the gunman and 20 first-graders.
The exercise is planned for Saturday at a closed school site in suburban Fountain Hills outside Phoenix where sheriff's SWAT members will act as shooters and 25 teenagers will play the part of students during mock scenarios involving up to three gunmen.
Seagal, best known for his roles in movies such as “Above the Law” and “Under Siege,” will lead training in hand-to-hand defense tactics and other techniques, drawing from his expertise in martial arts, according to a sheriff's office news release.
When criticized by some in January about the school posse plan, Arpaio snapped back: “Why would people complain about my posse being in front of schools to act as prevention?”
He announced the plan on the grounds of an elementary school, saying at the time that he wanted the patrols publicized.
“I want everyone to know about it for the deterrence effect,” Arpaio said, adding that no taxpayer money would be spent on the patrols.