SALT LAKE CITY — Arizona regulators have recommended disciplinary proceedings against six police officers who patrol a polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border.
A subcommittee of the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training board voted last week to recommend that the full board discipline the marshals in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, The Salt Lake Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/2dhrxKs ).
Hildale and Colorado City are home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The investigation is related to accusations that the police force and town governments discriminate against people who are not members of the sect.
“There’s not one specific allegation,” said Jeff Matura, an attorney representing the marshals and Colorado City’s government who attended the subcommittee meeting. “It was a hodgepodge of incidents that were presented to the subcommittee.”
Matura said one of the seven accused officers is quitting and retiring, and if the other six are stripped of their police powers, it would leave only one officer on the force. That officer was hired earlier this year and was not under suspicion, said Matura.
The Arizona inquiry follows a similar investigation in Utah that apparently found no wrongdoing.
The group’s recommendation also comes a month before a federal judge is set to consider a request from federal officials to disband the town marshals, who are certified as peace officers in both Utah and Arizona. That request is based on a jury’s finding that the towns violated the constitutional rights of nonbelievers by denying them basic government services such as police protection, building permits and water hookups.
The towns oppose the idea, calling it a drastic first step.
The four-day federal hearing is set to begin Oct. 24 in Phoenix. A witness list submitted by the U.S. Department of Justice includes four high-ranking leaders in the Utah and Arizona counties that would assume policing duties if the town marshals are disbanded.
The Arizona investigation is thought to include some of the same accusations as those brought by the Department of Justice in a civil trial held in Phoenix last winter. During that trial, former chief marshal Helaman Barlow testified for the Justice Department that he and other marshals obstructed the FBI and altered police reports. Other witnesses said marshals failed to look into reports of vandalism, theft and child sexual abuse.
Matura said the presentation by Arizona investigators raised issues going as far back as 2002.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com