Colorado City, FLDS Haven, Is Reportedly Covered With Security Cameras, 1984 Style
The Utah/Arizona border towns of Colorado City and Hildale reportedly are swarming with security cameras operated by the polygamist cities' government.
Reporters from the Salt Lake Tribune counted 29 cameras across the two towns but then were told there probably were 60 operated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and not the city -- although for the most part, they are one and the same.
-Michelle Ugenti's Anti-Colorado City Bill Gets No Love from State Senate
-Doris Goodale Won't Explain Her Defense of Colorado City's Police Force
-Colorado City Sued by Justice Department; Warren Jeffs Still Running the Joint
A couple of news outlets have investigated the presence of the cameras, but the Tribune seems to have the best coverage, by far, including a map of the ones it knows about (the paper's "Polygamy Blog" is pretty rad as a whole).
"When [Guy] Timpson (a former Jeffs follower/camera-watcher) was working the cameras, members of the FLDS church took shifts operating the system 24 hours a day, seven days a week," the Trib reports. "Timpson said that in 2010, two men worked 'four days on, three days off' watching the community. The cameras are high-powered and can zoom in on license plates and faces. Another camera sits high above the meetinghouse on a flag pole and spins 360 degrees at all times."
Reporters were told by Timpson that "he has seen local marshals using the system to check license plate numbers."
If that's true, and is still the case, then you can thank your state legislators for that.
Republican Representative Michelle Ugenti proposed a bill this year -- similar to legislation proposed last session -- calling for local police departments to be dissolved if half of its police officers had their licenses taken away over the course of eight years. That happens to fit the description of the Marshal's Office.
Colorado City previously was patrolled only by the "Marshal's Office," which is believed to be loyal to Jeffs instead of the law, at least, according to Attorney General Tom Horne and a federal lawsuit from the the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
A later amendment to the bill clarified that every police department starts with a clean slate, including the Marshal's Office.
That bill still didn't pass. The neutered version passed the House -- as Representative Doris Goodale wouldn't explain her "no" vote on the bill to New Times or one of her fellow lawmakers -- but the bill wasn't even heard in the Senate.
And really, the Trib's discovery of these cameras isn't all that surprising.
Check out one related allegation from the Justice Department's lawsuit.
The Marshal's Office effectively serves as the enforcement arm of the FLDS Church. Since at least 1990, the Marshal's Office has assisted the FLDS Church in its surveillance and investigation of non-FLDS members because of religion. This activity includes providing training and resources to FLDS members to aid their surveillance of non-FLDS members. The Marshal's Office provides law-enforcement information, including, but not limited to, information about emergency calls to the Marshal's Office for assistance, directly to FLDS security personnel. In addition, the cities obtain information from LDS Church security-service members about vehicles traveling in the cities, run license-plate checks to determine whether such vehicles are owned and/or operated by non-FLDS members in the cities, and convey the results of the license-plate checks to the FLDS Church.
According to the Trib's report, former camera watcher Timpson made it sound as though the cameras were primarily for keeping an eye on what church members were doing.
Utah TV station KUTV also heard from Timpson that the cameras "literally could look right into [residents'] windows."
But assume you're being watched too, if you find yourself out in the FLDS community.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.