(NaturalNews) He's known for his outside-the-box approach to law enforcement, and his most recent idea for protecting school children from crazed killers is just as non-mainstream, though it is a notion catching on with other law enforcement personnel in more communities around the country.
Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for his tough, unconventional methods of incarceration (making prisoners wear pink jumpsuits and peddle bicycles to generate enough power to watch television), came out in support of placing at least one armed teacher in each school in his jurisdiction, following the mid-December massacre of 20 Kindergarteners and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
But now, he's taking that a step further. In a bold statement Dec. 28, Arpaio said he favors putting an armed sheriff's posse member in each school and that he would be prepared to do so within a week. Currently, there are roughly 50 schools in Maricopa County's district.
No cost to taxpayers
Reports say that schools in cities and communities like Cave Creek, Fountain Hills, and Litchfield Park may soon see armed posse members patrolling school grounds, in fact. And one of the best things is, he says, the coverage would be gratis to taxpayers.
"No cost to taxpayers, they furnish their own equipment, they do not receive any salary," Arpaio told news crews.
The sheriff's posse has already made its debut as an enhancement to county law enforcement; members have been patrolling shopping malls during the holidays, says the sheriff.
And they've been effective; Arpaio says his posse members have made 31 arrests so far. But the bigger picture, he believes, is that just having them around is a deterrent to crime.
"The posse has the same training regarding guns as our regular deputy sheriffs, over 100 hours of training, plus refresher courses... We should never have a defeatist attitude. Look to the future and take whatever precautions we can do. I don't just want to talk, I like action," Arpaio said.
Earlier Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne made the proposal to put at least one armed teacher in every school in the state.
"If we had school resource officers in all schools there'd be no need for my program, my program is second best," Horne told reporters.
Officials said that the state's budget for school resource officers has been cut by nearly half - 46 percent - over the past three years, in large part due to falling state revenues caused by the Great Recession.
Not everyone agrees that armed personnel in schools are the wisest option, however. Fox News affiliate KSAZ reported that a spokesperson for Arizona Superintendent John Huppenthal said state officials are examining a number of proposals.
"In addition to potentially adopting one of these approaches," the statement said, "we would want to ensure all schools and districts complete the necessary intensive threat assessment and violence prevention training that creates a comprehensive solution to create the safest possible environment for our students."
Gov. Jan Brewer's office also acknowledged that there are a number of proposals floating around, but that no one has decided on an approach yet.
Other cops agree - arm the educators
Arpaio's approach echoes those of other law enforcement officers. As we've reported, the police chief for St. Louis County, Missouri, backs placing trained, armed personnel in schools, to better protect kids from future massacres he says are coming.
"We can talk on the back end of the need for funding of mental illness programs and gun control, but as a law enforcement officer, I'm focused on that five-minute window that it takes for the cops to get there while people are getting killed," said Chief Tom Fitch. "There is somebody out there right now trying to figure out how to do something worse than this guy did, and there is only one way to end a threat, and that's with lethal force."
"We cannot continue to do things as we've always done it, that's why we need to have frank discussion in this country as to where we go from here," he added.
Also, security expert and former military officer Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, believes enhancing school security with armed personnel is a good first start.
"The challenge for law enforcement agencies and officers, then, is to overcome not only the attacks taking place in schools, but to first overcome the denial in the minds of mayors, city councils, school administrators, and parents," he said during a recent lecture and presentation.