Sheriff’s posses aren’t uncommon in Texas, but they usually just make parade appearances and help out at rodeos. McLennan County sheriff Parnell McNamara wants to set up his own posse to help out in emergency situations like last year’s explosion in West.
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara has been in law enforcement for most of his life.
And from looking at the pictures that line his office in the McLennan County Sheriff’s building – you can tell it’s something that runs deep in his family.
"That is my brother right there," McNamara points to a picture on a bookshelf in his office. "He spent 34 years in the US Marshals. And I put in 33. And we're in Tombstone, Arizona, where they had a big shootout at the OK Corral."
McNamara has recently spurred the idea of starting a Sheriff’s Posse in McLennan County – reaching out on Facebook – asking people in the area if they would want to be involved.
"What we’re doing, or trying to do, is to reach out to the public and get the community involved more in assisting law enforcement, assisting the Sheriff’s Office," said McNamara. "Because we have a difficult job and we can’t do it by ourselves.”
In just one day the post garnered nearly 500 likes and numerous comments – prompting McNamara to move forward with the idea.
There are sheriff’s posses across Texas—most of them are pretty…decorative…they work local rodeos and do community service. But McNamara says his “posse” could be made up of several divisions including a mounted horseback patrol and motorized patrols with ATVs and other vehicles volunteers have to offer. Members of the posse would not be able to make arrests or enforce laws.
McNamara says he wants the posse to assist mainly with search and rescue operations for missing children or elderly – or helping in disaster response situations like last year’s West explosion.
"We were very short handed. We had to respond the minute the explosion took place," McNamara explained. "If we had had extra people just to help people get to the hospital or help park cars or that type of thing. I think it would've been an incredible effort."
McNamara says the posse would definitely be unarmed. But he also says the Sheriff’s Office wouldn’t be able to unarm anyone who already had a concealed carry license…and people interested in joining the Posse would go through a thorough background check.
There are already opportunities for Wacoans to get involved in law enforcement. The Waco Police Department has a program called Citizens on Patrol-- a volunteer group where members patrol their neighborhoods for criminal activities. Duties can range from passing out handicap parking violations to reporting a suspicious suspect in the neighborhoods they’re in.
Gloria Valdez is a Waco resident and a member of Citizens on Patrol. She likes the idea of a posse.
"I probably would consider finding out more about it and possibly joining it," said Valdez. "It's something that we're already kind of doing, used to doing now. In a different way though because they probably have their own structure of what they're going to do."
Citizens on Patrol members aren’t allowed to make arrests or enforce laws. They really serve as eyes and ears for the Waco Police.
"I've done it for five years now," said Valdez. "If I could do it all the time I would!"
But this is just one example of community members getting involved with the local police force. McNamara’s Posse could likely look a bit different – and it’s still in the early stages.
"If the calls keep coming in, it's been overwhelming," said McNamara. "We're just trying to get a grip on it cause we never dreamed we'd have this kind of response."