With no police powers, Arizona Rangers still protect and serve - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

With no police powers, Arizona Rangers still protect and serve

September 3rd, 2018 SanTan Sun News
With no police powers, Arizona Rangers still protect and serve

By Cecilia Chan, Staff

While Arizona was a territory, a company of men rode its untamed terrain on horseback, chasing down rustlers, murderers and other scofflaws.

The Arizona Rangers combated lawlessness for nearly eighty years until the Legislature disbanded it in 1909 – three years before the territory came into the Union as the 48th state.

“They are very closely tied to the culture and history of the state,” said Anthony Ramirez, a member of the Arizona Rangers, which was re-formed in 1957 by a few of the original surviving members. “It was founded to clean up the Arizona territory in preparation for statehood. Arizona is very much a state because of the Arizona Rangers.”

Today’s Arizona Rangers is an all-volunteer citizen auxiliary of men and women who wear a uniform and a badge and carry a gun. Its mission under Arizona Revised Statute 41-4201 is to provide additional manpower at the request of any law enforcement authority.

Rangers have no law enforcement or investigative power and have no more authority than a resident of Arizona.

But, Ramirez pointed out, “a police officer isn’t going to come to you and say, ‘hey, come help us.’ But Arizona Rangers are men and women who are trained for that.”

Initial training is a basic 24-hour academy, followed by an hour or two hours of training monthly, according to Hugh Fox, a member of the Ranger’s East Valley Company.

There are 19 companies located throughout Arizona, with a membership roster numbering around 300. East Valley Company is one of the larger posts with 19 active members.

Rangers are certified to carry collapsible batons and OC spray, and must meet Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board qualification standards in firearms. They also receive Arizona POST training in handcuffing and defensive tactics, according to Fox, a 28-year retired New Jersey cop who joined the Rangers in January 2017.

“It was a way for me to incorporate helping the community with doing something associated with law-enforcement-support activity,” he said.

All rangers must first undergo a state and national background checks and investigation and hold a current Arizona Concealed Weapon Permit. They also must be 21 or older and live in Arizona at least six months out of the year.

Joining the Rangers costs not only time but money.

Rangers pay for their own uniform and equipment, including a duty belt, body armor, weapons and ammunition – which, altogether, can average $2,500, Ramirez said.

Many rangers have previous law enforcement or military experience but they come from all walks of life, Fox said.

Although rangers have helped law enforcement agencies with services such as foot patrols, bailiff duty, prisoner transport and traffic control, most of what the East Valley Company does nowadays is provide security detail. That includes helping the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department with the annual County Thunder concert event outside of Florence.

“We help out youth organizations like Sunshine Acres, a group home for kids,” Fox said. “We provide security for them annually but other areas we provide security is at MADD classes. We do that on an almost weekly basis. And some of the food banks need security. One of them is not in the best area.”

Because the East Valley Company is located in metropolitan Phoenix, which is populated by large law-enforcement agencies, ranger services are rarely requested.

“Arizona Rangers here in Maricopa County area do not get utilized by law enforcement as much as I think they should,” Ramirez said. “The reason, in my opinion, is they have enough manpower.”

Many Valley agencies have their own volunteer help such as the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Posse and the Phoenix Police Reserve force.

Tucson Police has called upon the Rangers but mostly for security with events, according to police spokesman Ray Smith.

“The assistance they provide is limited but it’s a welcome help for us,” the officer said.

It’s in the smaller communities such as Bisbee, Tombstone, Benson, Sedona and Sierra Vista where the Arizona Rangers play a large role in law enforcement, Ramirez said.

“If you go to Tombstone on any weekend, Arizona Rangers are patrolling down there and also in Sedona,” he said. “They are walking a foot beat and are very much a help because of manpower issues. It’s a very unique type of volunteer work they do that puts them in situations where they can get hurt.”

“These guys volunteering to help law enforcement in the state are just in as much risk,” Ramirez said. “People think these men who volunteer are crazy but it’s a calling. They do it to help the state.”

Ramirez, a former Washington, D.C. cop who is now a Mesa attorney, said he never heard of the Arizona Rangers until 2013, while working as a private investigator and insurance adjuster.

“One of my clients called me,” he recalled. “And said, ‘hey, we got an unusual case. This guy said he was burglarized and they took things out of his house but I’m confused because he said he had body armor, a duty belt and all this law-enforcement-related equipment. We think police officers are usually given that by the department and we don’t think we have to pay for it.’ And as a former cop, I agreed.”

So, Ramirez met with the man to find out what was going on with the insurance claim.

“I asked him, ‘if you got body armor and a gun and a duty belt, are you police?’” he said.

The man responded he was the captain of the Arizona Rangers’ East Valley Company and all the stolen equipment came out of his own pocket. After learning more about the Rangers, Ramirez told the man, “Where is the application? Sign me up.”

Ramirez volunteers from 20 to 24 hours a month with the Rangers.

“I do criminal defense, personal injury and civil rights,” he said. “It’s a very fine line and obviously even though I defend people accused of a crime, I support law enforcement. It’s key to keeping my family safe.”

Special to the San Tan Sun News