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A group of men deputized by The Sheriff or U.S. Marshal to assist in the pursuit of justice, such as capturing fugitives.

The word comes from the Latin phrase "posse comitatus", roughly "to have the right to an armed retinue." In the old days, it would sometimes be necessary for a sheriff to get a lot of manpower very quickly to deal with a crisis. To this end, he could essentially draft any man handy (with certain restrictions) into a posse to handle the situation. The process will often include the line "I hereby deputise you."

After 1878, it was illegal to use military personnel in a posse. In more modern times, many jurisdictions have banned the formation of posses, but sheriffs seldom have need of them due to improved communications and manpower.

Note that if it is not legally convened by a sheriff or marshal, the group of men is not a "posse", even if they call themselves that. They're just a mob or gang. Although, if they do claim to be an apparatus of justice, see Vigilante Militia.

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In modern slang, a "posse" is just a group of people who hang out with each other all the time; see Girl Posse and Production Posse for examples of this sort of "posse."


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • The second arc of Copperhead sees the sheriff Bronson convene one to rescue kidnapped deputy Budroxifinicus. Members are the town's resident badass, two hired guns on loan, and a teenage kid who could provide steeds.
  • The Italian western comic Tex features one of the most epic uses of the trope, as the posse gathered at the end of the story arc Navajo Blood is composed by Tex, his pards and over one hundred pissed Navajos, who showed up to make sure the Corrupt Hicks who murdered four Navajo boys For the Evulz are arrested and unable to bribe their way out of trouble again. The posse is so formidable that the Mooks of the villains run away after being told of it, and the villains end up killing each other as they fight over the only available horse to run away.
  • XIII: Dwight Rigby forms one to chase XIII and Jones in the mountainsn The Night of August Third.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live Action 
  • The Bravados: After the inmates escape, a posse rides out immediately, but Douglass - with his extensive experience trailing these outlaws - waits until morning.
  • The Burrowers: Subverted at first. Clay, Parcher, Coffey, and Dobie wait for the cavalry to arrive and accompany them to the suspected abductors. However, when it is clear that the cavalry have no interest in actually saving people, they strike out on their own.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
    • The town marshal tries to get a posse together to pursue the Hole in the Wall gang after a train robbery, but his lack of charisma, the gang's lethal reputation and the intervention of a Snake Oil Salesman bicycle salesman foil him.
    • During the second train robbery, the gang is attacked by a expert posse specially formed by "Mr. E. H. Harriman of the Union Pacific Railroad" to hunt down Butch and the Sundance Kid. This pursuit eventually drives Our Heroes to Bolivia, and their doom.
  • Canyon Passage: Although not a legal posse, as Jacksonville has no sheriff, Logan organizes a body of 60 men to ride out and fight the Indian war party.
  • Django Unchained: After Dr. King Schultz shoots Sheriff Bill Sharp, Marshall Tatum deputizes the townsfolk to corner him and demand his surrender.
  • In Go West, Young Lady, Tex's first act on becoming sheriff is to form a posse to hunt for Killer Pete's hideout; without success. After the hideout is uncovered, Tex organizes a larger posse to take on the gang, not realizing he is riding into an ambush.
  • The townspeople form one and chase down the bandits in The Great Train Robbery.
  • In Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Wyatt Earp deputizes Doc Holliday to pursue bank robbers, because all his deputies have gone with another posse.
  • In Hangman's Knot, Major Stewart and his troops are chased by group of drifters posing as a posse who intend to kill the Rebs and keep the gold for themselves.
  • Subverted in the Gary Cooper film, High Noon—Marshal Kane tries to gather a posse to take down revenge-seeking outlaw Frank Miller, but he's forced to fight alone when none of the eligible townsfolk will help him. Some refuse to join him out of cowardice, others because they sympathize with Miller. The only people who would be willing to help him are an one-eyed old drunk and a 14-year-old boy; Kane sends them away, as they'd be more of a hindrance.
  • Joe Kidd:
    • Just after the raid on the courthouse, the sheriff gathers a posse to track down Chama. It comes back empty-handed.
    • Later, Frank Harlan gathers a posse to track down Chama. Joe Kidd finally accepts to be part of it.
  • In Knife for the Ladies, Jarrod organises a posse after Nina's murder to go after Ramon. However, Hooker and his men get there first.
  • The Last Stand: After one of his deputies is murdered, Ray finds himself having to deal with the fact that a bunch of Mexican cartel members are about to make things rough for him, especially since SWAT and the FBI won't be able to make it to his town in time to help. Enter Frank, an ex-Marine with a drinking issue, who wants to help avenge his friend, and Dinkum, who owns a museum of obsolete, yet functional, firearms, who wants to carry his favorite gun. Ray ends up deputizing them, and using Dinkum's armory.
  • In The Leopard Man, the sheriff organizes a posse to hunt down the escaped leopard.
  • One Foot in Hell: After the bank robbery, Sheriff Mitch Barrett organises a posse to hunt down the bank robbers, despite being the one who masterminded the robbery.
  • Posse was a 1993 movie by Mario Van Peebles that has a gang formed up of black Spanish-American War veterans returning home to right wrongs. Unfortunately, they can't be a legal posse as The Sheriff is one of the bad guys.
  • The Rawhide Terror: The sheriff organizes multiple posses in an attempt to catch the Rawhide Killer; all of which fail because he is too adept at hiding his tracks. Only the last one, where they catch him in the act, succeeds.
  • In The Revenant, one is summoned to find Glass after Captain Henry got notice of his existence. Later a small posse consisting of Henry and Glass take out to hunt down Fitzgerald.
  • In Silverado, Sheriff Langston organises a posse to chase Emmett, Paden and Jake when they escape from the Turley jail. However, he calls off the chase when he encounters resistance from Mal, leading to the immortal line:
    "Today my jurisdiction ends here!"
  • Twice in Silver Lode.
    • Sheriff Wooley swears in a volunteer posse, ostensibly to make sure that Ballard doesn't escape during the ride to Discovery, California, though actually to keep an eye on McCarty to make sure that doesn't try anything.
    • McCarty eventually deputizes every man in town to search for Ballard house-by-house.
  • In The Sons of Katie Elder, Deputy Latta and Judge Evers form one to go after the Elders when they suspect they killed Sheriff Billy.
  • Sheriff Murchoree organizes a posse to chase Jim after Tigre breaks him out of jail in Tumbleweed.
  • In Young Guns, loosely based on the Real Life adventures of Billy the Kid, Billy and the other "Regulators" are deputized as a posse through political influence, but quickly lose that status when they abuse their power. The sequel, Young Guns II, has a legitimate posse formed by Sheriff Pat Garrett to pursue Billy's gang.
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    Literature 
  • The western novel series started by William Johnstone and his niece J.A. frequently have civilian posses formed to pursue bank robbers, murderers, and the like, generally after a villainous Establishing Character Moment. In most books, they get attacked in an ambush and are either wiped out or turn back in fright after losing a member or two. On a few occasions (such as in MacCallister: The Eagles Legacy: Kingdom Come), the posse successfully captures the killers, only for them to pull off a bloody jailbreak later on. On the rare occasions where a main character is part of an organized posse (such as in Blood Bond: Gunsight Crossing and Revenge of the Mountain Man), the whole affair is likely to be a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, a book later turned into a movie, has a posse illegally drafted by a deputy sheriff. By the end, the sheriff forms a genuine posse.
  • In Star Wars: Kenobi, the group of settlers who participate in the Settlers' Call refer to themselves as a posse, and there isn't a legal authority in rural Tatooine to contest the designation. Settlers who buy in to the Call have a loudspeaker mounted on their property in case of a raid by the Sand People; when it's activated, it broadcasts a krayt dragon roar to scare the Tuskens off, then transitions into a siren (and also a radio transmission) that calls the posse to the location, ready to drive the Tuskens away or hunt them down in retaliation.
  • The Steel Bonnets: By law, after a raid, the victim clan had the right of "trod" to pursue the raiders for a week after they struck. If they set off within a couple of hours, it was a "hot trod", if they set off within a week, it was a "cold trod". There were well understood differences between a trod and a reprisal raid, the chief one being that a trod was aimed (at least nominally) towards recovering specifically named and enumerated property stolen by a band of raiders, whereas a reprisal raid was basically "you stole from us so we're gonna steal from you".
  • In Edgar Pangborn's short story "Tiger Boy", which is set in the same post-holocaust world as his novel Davy, some villagers form a posse (legal status unclear) to apprehend the title character whom they consider to be a demon with an animal familiar. Actually he's just some kid who wanders around with a half-tame tiger looking for a friend, and he finds one in the form of an intelligent but mute village boy. The two of them plan to run away together, but with the posse on their trail it can't end well.

    Live Action TV 
  • Bonanza had a posse formed at least three times a season. With 15 seasons, that's a lot of posse forming.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In "The Circle", Constable Odo deputizes petty crook and gambler Quark because he needs the Ferengi's underworld contacts to gather information on who's supplying weapons for an coming Civil War. Quark finds this Actually Pretty Funny until Odo points out the alternative—he locks up Quark for obstruction at a time when Quark might need to get off the space station in a hurry. Despite the Space Western themes of DS9 however, Odo never goes as far as forming a posse of civilians, relying instead on Starfleet personnel or Bajoran security deputies to back him up when needed.
  • Supernatural has a Wild West themed episode that involves the formation of a posse. Dean is very happy about that. He loves the posse. He's a posse magnet.
  • Twin Peaks has the Bookhouse Boys, townsfolk recruited by the Sheriff to help in some....slightly less than legal law enforcement operations.

    Music 
  • The song "One Hour Ahead of the Posse" by Burl Ives, which told the story of a murderer trying to reach the Rio Grande river and sanctuary in Mexico.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • One The Far Side cartoon shows why the sheriff should be the one doing this. 'A posse is something you have to organize.'

    Tabletop Games 
  • Inquisitors in Warhammer 40,000 have the power to Flashed-Badge Hijack anything up to and including entire planetary populations, but most just run around with a small retinue that serves the same purpose as a Posse.
    • The spinoff game Inquisitor is based around such retinues battling each other.

    Theme Parks 
  • Tweetsie Railroad: The Marshal always travels with them, and since the train show became more comedic, they are hilariously incompetent and generally not very bright.

    Video Games 
  • You can form or join posses in Red Dead Redemption's multiplayer. You can also incur the wrath of some NPC posses if you're sufficiently villainous or have a big enough bounty on your head. You'll also join Marshal Leigh Johnson's posse in the course of the story campaign. One comprised of the US Army comes for you at the end of the game when your Bureau handler turns on you. There's no running from them, and no surviving their overwhelming ambush. Just take out as many as you can.

    Web Original 
  • Swarm on the Somme: The posses in the United States don't last very long against the Grex, especially in trying to eradicating Grex nests.


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