A measure to establish a Minuteman-like "volunteer security force" under the Cochise County Sheriff's Office is dangerous, rooted in emotion and too hastily conceived. It must not be passed by the Legislature.
The measure is a strike-everything amendment that wipes out previous language in an unrelated bill. It's sponsored by state Sen. Al Melvin, a Tucson Republican, and was approved last week by the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Star's Tim Steller reported Saturday.
The amendment would move $200,000 from the state's "Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission" task force to the Cochise County Sheriff's Office. The money would be used to establish and equip a pilot program using volunteers.
Astonishingly, the first time that Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever heard of the bill was on Friday, when Steller called to ask about it.
No one called the sheriff to get his thoughts on this measure? Dever said he hadn't heard about the plan and wasn't sure if he supported it.
However, he added, "I always have been all for a well-trained, well-regulated reserve organization."
The Legislature's voice of reason on this measure so far is Tucson Democratic Sen. Paula Aboud, the only Appropriations Committee member to vote against the amendment. She told Steller that she opposes the creation of "a posse or a vigilante group."
"You have to be so careful when you're bringing volunteers in to do the work of the state," she said. "You take a huge risk in terms of liability of the state" if a volunteer errs or commits a crime.
We agree. We also oppose the last-minute, rushed nature of the amendment. Strike-everything amendments get less consideration than regular bills, because they wipe out previous language.
Creating a posse and assigning the Cochise County Sheriff's Office to organize, train and manage it is a bad idea. Further, a decision of such magnitude should be given thorough public hearings, open debate and study.
Aboud called the amendment "an emotionally charged plan." It's clear that she is correct.
Melvin told Steller he worked with the Arizona Cattlemen's Association, state Sen. Russell Pearce and others to put the bill together in the wake of the March 27 killing of border-area rancher Robert Krentz.
"There are many of us, including me, who would like to see the concept of the Minutemen come back. I think there's a way to make it work," Melvin said.
What he didn't say is that there are lots of ways in which such a concept could fail in practice. In fact, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps was disbanded last month - hardly a sign of success.
Its president, Carmen Mercer of Tombstone, said the board of directors voted to end the group's five-year run because it was worried that her "call to action" urging members to come to the border "locked, loaded and ready" would attract the wrong people, the Star's Brady McCombs reported.
Another bad idea in Melvin's amendment is the creation of a border-security commission that is directed to reach specified conclusions: that 12 forward operating bases be established along the Arizona-Mexico border between the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation and New Mexico; that U.S. military forces be must be deployed along the border; and that 3,000 more U.S. Border Patrol agents must be brought to Arizona.
"Typically you create a commission and you ask them to study something," Aboud said. "He's creating a commission and telling them what to do."
Melvin said such recommendations give the commission a head start. "We wanted to put some teeth in it," he said.
Let's not put teeth into anything in such a disorderly rush. Again, the proposal has more flaws than virtues. It's dangerous and must not be passed.
Arizona Daily Star