Arizona Sheriff Arpaio Arms Deputies With AR-15 Rifles, Requires Them To Fight Crime Even When Off Duty
- Aug 10, 2013 11:35 AM EDT
Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is going to great lengths to fight crime in Maricopa County.
The controversial law enforcement officer announced Thursday that he is arming his deputies with AR-15 style rifles, and requiring them to carry weapons even when they are off duty.
At a press conference, Arpaio said the new rifles are essential to help local police combat criminals who are using increasingly powerful weaponry.
"We live in a violent society, even here in Maricopa County, and across our nation, and the least we can do is to arm our deputies, let's say with enough firepower to fight back," he said, according to Reuters.
The 81-year-old sheriff dismissed critics saying, "While this decision may seem controversial to some in the public and among other law enforcement agencies, I have extreme confidence in the training and professionalism of the men and women deputies in the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office," Arpaio said, reports AZ Family.
During his annoucement, Arpaio noted that two of his deputies "died under violent circumstances" last year and another "was shot several times but survived."
"I want all my deputies to be armed with the greatest firepower available 24 hours a day," Arpaio said. However, the deputies will be required to carry only a handgun at all times, and they will only have to employ the AR-15 style rifles only while on duty.
Jorge Vargas, a 27-year-old detention officer with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, died earlier this week after he was shot in the driveway of his home. Arpaio said he is still searching for his colleague's killer.
"Right now the main mission is to find this guy and get him in jail," Arpaio said during a press conference on Vargas's death.
Arpaio says the 400 new Smith & Wesson rifles were purchased using money obtained from arrests. The self-described "America's toughest sheriff" has recieved national attention for his strict enforcement of the state's immigration laws.