Arizona’s polygamous town’s police force focus of legislation

Arizona’s Attorney General Horne testified yesterday before the Arizona State Senate on behalf of SB1433. The bill is aimed at Colorado City’s police department.

Colorado City is a polygamous town and the former residence of Warren Jeffs who now resides in prison.

Horne said that the bill was the most important of the 17 pieces of legislation his office is pushing this session. The bill would prohibit municipalities from managing their own police departments if at least half of their officers have been decertified by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board.

Horne told lawmakers, “The law enforcement officers there (Colorado City) are not enforcing the laws as they are sworn to do. They are enforcing the will of Jeffs.” Horne wants to have the power to replace Colorado City’s police department.

Horne said the Colorado Police Department is used to punish “apostates.” Horne told the lawmakers that officers loyal to the polygamous sect often bring runaway wives back to their husbands and routinely ignore abuse claims lodged by people who viewed as disloyal to Jeffs.

The Executive Director of the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, Lyle Mann told the lawmakers that Colorado City’s Police4 Department has a “systemic problem.” He advised lawmakers that the bill would allow officials to determine if a department’s issues are “systemic or the result of a few bad apples.”

According to Horne, young women trapped in polygamist arrangements with much older men, who had escaped from Colorado City, have stated that other women trying to escape were caught by the local police, referred to as “Marshalls” and forcefully returned to their husbands. In one case, the husband threatened “blood atonement” if the woman tried again escape, which involves execution.

The Attorney General said the execution method was “too horrible to describe.”

The bill has an emergency clause and, if the state found a town in violation it would stripped of its power to run a police department. Law enforcement duties would then become the responsibility of the county in which the town is located. The sheriffs’ offices would be reimbursed the costs of enforcement by the town.

Attorney General Horne has organized a task force of federal, state, and county law enforcement officers, to deal with the Colorado City problem. They all agree that the first priority for dealing with that problem is replacement of local law enforcement, because existing law enforcement has expressly committed itself to following the dictates of Warren Jeffs, rather than enforcing the laws of the state, as they are sworn to do.

Numerous cases have been documented where the Colorado City “Marshalls” refuse to investigate serious crimes against the property and persons of “apostates” or other non followers of Warren Jeffs, when the perpetrators were followers of Mr. Jeffs. The “Marshalls” have also prevented enforcement of court orders with respect who can occupy land.

Horne cited a case when a court appointed official came to Colorado City to enforce court orders, and the Chief of Police pulled him over and threatened to arrest him for criminal trespass if he attempted to enforce court orders.

The bill passed unanimously.