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Sheriff’s ‘posse’ draws criticism

A call for volunteers to help form a posse for the Canadian County sheriff is getting some pushback, including from a former Yukon mayor.

Chris West

Sheriff Chris West, earlier this week, said he is looking for volunteers to help form a posse to serve different aspects of the sheriff’s office.
West said the group would focus on benevolent activities, such as helping those in need.
However, John O’Bannon, who served as Yukon’s mayor in the mid-1990s, said Wednesday he is concerned about the connotations that the name “posse” brings with it.
O’Bannon said the timing also is off, especially with the current situation involving George Floyd and the racial unrest that has followed Floyd’s death.
The Minnesota man died after a Minneapolis police officer allegedly placed a knee on Floyd’s neck while making an arrest.
The incident was captured on video with Floyd being heard saying that he couldn’t breathe.
West, who was recently re-elected to a second term as sheriff, said the idea behind the posse isn’t new.
The current Oklahoma Sheriff of the Year said he has been planning for many months to form a group that could serve as volunteers, and has even formed a foundation to raise funds.
O’Bannon, who is a marketing professor at Southern Nazarene University, said he and West have been friends for several years and he appreciates what the law officer does.
However, he does question the timing of the current proposal.
“I feel like this is inciting potential harm for a county sheriff to be developing, at this time and in this
culture, a posse,” O’Bannon said.
The professor also said he is concerned about the potential for the posse to be armed, especially in what could be chaotic situations.
O’Bannon and West visited by phone on Wednesday, and the former mayor said he feels better about the situation. However, he is still concerned.
“I think it is dangerous and I don’t think it is needed,” O’Bannon said.
West, however, disagreed. He said residents have been asking for years for a way to help.
This, he said, could be the perfect tool for that.
West said he chose the name posse because it sounded “sheriffy.”
“I knew posse had old-west connotations. That is a traditional term for sheriffs and groups who work with sheriffs,” he said.
As for the timing, West said he had originally planned to announce it late last year, but put it on hold because he and his wife moved. Plans to announce the program in the spring were delayed by COVID-19 and the recent civil unrest.
The goal of the posse, he said, is to help people who are in need, not to be wanna-be law officers.
“I understand how people might come to that conclusion, but it is erroneous,” West said.
Instead, he said, the posse will be a bunch of “community do-gooders,” who want to help their neighbors.
“There are a lot of good supporters in Canadian County,” West said.
Almost 600 people had applied to be part of the program since its announcement on Tuesday.
All of the volunteers will be vetted, West said.
The sheriff said he is not sure when the program will be operational, though it will likely take at least a couple of months to go through the applications and vetting process.
“I am not in a hurry. We want to do it right,” he said.

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