By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Citizen volunteers are ready to join the Canadian County sheriff’s newly created posse.
Canadian County Sheriff Chris West said he received 562 online applications within the first 24 hours after announcing he would start a posse. About 200 Canadian County residents are attending orientation sessions before posse members are selected.
“We have five different training opportunities for orientation,” Sheriff West said. “The orientation is more of a civics lesson about government, the sheriff’s office and the county; what the duties and responsibilities of the sheriff are.
“We’ve had a very good response.”
There already have been orientations for prospective posse members in Piedmont, Yukon and El Reno; with another training Saturday in Mustang.
About 60 people attended morning and afternoon orientation sessions Oct. 10 at the Express Ranches’ sale barn in Yukon.
Orientations are led by sheriff’s investigator Lt. Scott Kendrick along with longtime retired Yukon police officer Tim Peters.
“I thought Tim was a good resource because he ran the Yukon Citizens Police Academy for years,” West said of Peters, now a Canadian County sheriff’s deputy. “That’s very comprehensive in the training they do; our orientation is a couple of hours and half of it is ‘Q and A’.”
These orientations allow county sheriff’s personnel to discuss their vision for the posse while learning about the applicants’ skills and talents.
“We want to find out what they may be interested in doing to help their neighbors,” West said. “We want feedback from the people to see what they think is important.”
Background investigations will be conducted before people can join the sheriff’s new posse.
NOT A MILITIA
Sheriff West, who starts his second four-year term next January, clarified the difference between a posse and a militia.
“A posse is a group of citizen volunteers who want to assist their local sheriff’s office with – for the most part – non-law enforcement responsibilities,” he explained.
Some posse members who are retired police officers could serve as reserve sheriff deputies because they satisfy state requirements for having a law enforcement commission. They would help manage and coordinate the posse.
The Canadian County Sheriff’s Posse will be citizens helping citizens.
Although posse members won’t perform official law enforcement functions, they will offer valuable support to the sheriff’s office in Oklahoma’s fastest-growing county.
“For example, the posse could help during natural disasters, provide perimeter support during a manhunt, or help find missing children or lost elderly residents,” West said. “They can now have a network that citizens can tap into themselves, apart and away from the sheriff’s office.
“Now they’ll have a network within these community groups so they can reach out to people and help their communities.”
While West received some negative criticism, he contends the desire to have a sheriff’s posse resonates with many Canadian County residents.
“They love it,” he said. “There is a cultural difference in people in what’s important to them. Here in Canadian County, I think I’m like-minded with most of our citizens.”