Rogue Cops

The police force in Polygamyland helps fugitive Prophet Warren Jeffs and his cult break the law

Goddard, meanwhile, has yet to file criminal charges against three former Colorado City public school district officials who have been under investigation for nearly a year for using public property for their own benefit.

The flaccid legal action by top authorities in both states gives me little confidence that anything will be done immediately to stop what essentially is an armed rebellion by the Colorado City police force that is putting innocent lives at risk.

A handful of courageous former members of Jeffs' cult who still live in Colorado City and Hildale are quietly cooperating with state and federal authorities conducting criminal investigations.

Utah AG Mark Shurtleff (left) and Arizona AG Terry Goddard have become Prophet Warren Jeffs' puppets.
Mark Poutenis
Utah AG Mark Shurtleff (left) and Arizona AG Terry Goddard have become Prophet Warren Jeffs' puppets.

These families say they can't rely on the local police force for protection if Jeffs orders his FLDS followers to do harm to them, their families or their property.

Instead, they must depend on the Mohave County Sheriff's Office, which would have to dispatch deputies from a substation in Beaver Dam more than an hour away.

"There is cause for concern because it would take the sheriff's office some time to get there," Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith acknowledges.

Mohave County has dragged its feet for years by failing to establish a police substation on the Arizona Strip to provide legitimate law enforcement not only to Colorado City but to Centennial Park, an adjoining polygamist town whose citizens are reviled by Jeffs because they refuse to worship him as their leader.

Many former FLDS members believe the potential for violence is increasing as law enforcement steps up pressure to find Jeffs.

Last month, FBI agents served grand jury subpoenas on about half a dozen FLDS leaders at a church hall where thousands of members were gathered for a Saturday-morning meeting.

Meanwhile, eight FLDS polygamists are awaiting trial in Mohave County Superior Court on felony charges stemming from their "spiritual" marriages to underage girls.

Under increasing legal pressure, Jeffs' edicts have become even more strict. Over the past two years, he has booted dozens of men out of the church for no defined reason. After their removal from the FLDS, he has reassigned their wives and children to other men.

As for the Colorado City police force, it has traditionally ignored the FLDS' illegal coercion of underage girls into plural marriages.

Colorado City police officer Rodney Holm took a 16-year-old girl as his third "wife" and impregnated her twice before she turned 18. He was later stripped of his police certification after he was convicted in August 2003 of unlawful sex with a minor and sentenced to a year in the Washington County, Utah, jail.

Former police chief Sam Roundy was stripped of his police certification last year for violating Arizona's and Utah's constitutions prohibiting polygamy and replaced with Fred Barlow, who has no more regard for the laws of the states in which he serves than his predecessor.

Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan says he plans to ask county supervisors for additional funding for two more deputies to be assigned to the Arizona Strip. But that wouldn't happen until late summer at the earliest.

Arizona AG Goddard's response to the law enforcement crisis in the polygamist enclave is to meekly seek a federal grant to fund another Mohave County sheriff's deputy to be posted in Colorado City.

While this may provide help six months from now, it does nothing to address the immediate problem: The Colorado City cops are acting as a militia for Warren Jeffs.

The state should immediately begin the cumbersome process of decertifying every Colorado City police officer who places his loyalty to religious leaders ahead of the law. And AG Goddard and Sheriff Sheahan must dispatch enough real cops to patrol Colorado City and its neighboring communities on a full-time basis.

Otherwise, it will be their fault if future property is stolen by Jeffs' followers and if citizens who cooperate with outside investigators are injured, or worse.

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