More than 500 people, many who referenced their ability to use a firearm or engage in combat, have signed up to join the Canadian County Sheriff’s Posse, a program Sheriff Chris West created this summer during the height of protests and demonstrations against police brutality.
When he announced the creation of the posse in June, West referred to it as a “rapid response force of citizens who could be called upon in a minute’s notice to answer the call to aid in safeguarding lives and property, as well as the constitutional rights of innocent law-abiding citizens of Canadian County,” according to his press release at the time.
Residents are able to sign up on the sheriff department’s website and are asked to list their skills and abilities.
Some volunteers referenced military experience or knowledge of firearms, while others referred to their time in Boy Scouts or working in the mental health field, according to documents obtained by The Frontier through an open records request.
One resident wrote he has “some knowledge in insurgency and guerrilla warfare.” Another wrote, “I am very accurate with guns and shooting.”
Dozens of volunteers were from outside Canadian County, including a Norman resident who wrote he has “combat skills” and “hand-to-hand combat and weapons training.”
Some of those who signed up appeared to use the form as a way to criticize the posse or submit fake names.
“I have mad skills with tigers,” wrote a person with the name Carole Baskin, who is the owner of a Florida animal sanctuary and was in the Tiger King documentary series on Netflix.
While many volunteers referenced their shooting and fighting skills, including one Oklahoma City resident who said, “I am very comfortable with multiple weapons of all styles, extremely capable in hand to hand combat,” West told The Frontier his posse was “not a militia” and that volunteers would not be used to enforce the law.
West did acknowledge his own criticism of recent protests against police brutality and said others in his community were also concerned.
On his Facebook page, West has accused “anarchist” and Anifa groups of disrupting cities through recent protests.
“The anarchists, thugs and self-identified Marxists are focused on the destruction of the United States of America,” West wrote in July. “They want to eliminate the US Constitution, take all your money, take your job, take your house, and control every thought, action and aspect of your life. That makes them domestic enemies of the country in my book.”
The Canadian County Sheriff’s Department assisted Oklahoma County during some demonstrations over the summer, including on May 31 when his department brought a mine-resistant vehicle to the Oklahoma County jail. While the day’s protests were peaceful, the department listed “riots” as the nature of the response, according to vehicle travel logs.
In a training presentation for the posse, which was obtained through an open records request, West said he wanted to use the posse “to bring the community into a more active role with the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office and to facilitate citizen networking with people that are like-minded.”
Each “posse” member will be required to undergo a minimal background check and sign a waiver release form, according to the training presentation.
Upon completion of an orientation, each member will receive a certificate and be able to attend meetings.
Posse members are not able to initiate traffic stops, use emergency lights on their vehicle, or make an arrest “that is not afforded any other citizen,” according to the training documents.
“When I was campaigning in 2016 I had a lot of people who told me they would like to volunteer,” West told The Frontier. “I don’t want to put a limitation on it. I would like to see the volunteers guide us on how they would like it to be.”