Facebook Twitter

Hildale officers could lose badges

Investigators from Utah and Arizona quiz town marshals

SHARE Hildale officers could lose badges

The Bible says "no man can serve two masters," but the police officers in the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., are being accused of trying.

Authorities in Utah and Arizona are trying to figure out what to do with the police as investigations continue — heading for a March deadline. Last week, Utah POST investigators traveled to Hildale to speak with the town marshals.

"We just kind of told them, 'Hey, this is what's going to happen, this is where we are in our investigation, and we do expect your cooperation,"' Utah Department of Public Safety spokesman Jeff Nigbur said Thursday.

The officers have retained an attorney to represent them, POST officials said. A message left with the Hildale Town Marshal's Office seeking comment was not returned Thursday.

One of the allegations is "dereliction of duty." Officers have been called into question over their loyalties to Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs.

The court-appointed special fiduciary of the United Effort Plan Trust — the financial arm of the FLDS Church — has been urging an investigation into the police. He has accused them of stalling investigations into the disappearance and destruction of trust property.

At a meeting last month, the Utah POST Council came close to decertifying the entire police department and handing law enforcement duties over to the Washington County sheriff. However, the council instead decided to put the entire police force under investigation.

Last week, Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith met with POST officials to discuss what may happen next.

"Hopefully we can get their police department to be compliant," Smith said of the Hildale/Colorado City Town Marshal's Office.

At the next Utah POST Council meeting scheduled for March in St. George, Arizona officials will brief Utah council members on the status of their investigations.

Investigations are under way by Arizona POST officials into Colorado City Town Marshals Fred Barlow and Preston Barlow. Both men appear to be fighting decertification.

"They have decided that they want to go to an administrative law judge," Arizona POST compliance manager Bob Forry said Thursday.

Authorities obtained a letter Fred Barlow wrote to Warren Jeffs, pledging his allegiance to the fugitive FLDS leader.

"I love you and acknowledge you as my priesthood head," Barlow wrote in the letter. "And I know that you have the right to rule in all aspects of my live (sic). I yearn to hear from you."

Arizona POST recently launched an investigation into Mica Barlow, who recently was stripped of his certification in Utah.

"If they decertify them in Arizona, they're done here," Nigbur told the Deseret Morning News.

Who will fill the void if the town marshals are removed remains unclear. The Washington County Sheriff's Office has a deputy patrolling Hildale. The Mohave County (Ariz.) Sheriff's Office also assigns deputies. The Utah Highway Patrol and Arizona Department of Public Safety could also be called in to provide services.

Law enforcement does have concerns about outside agencies providing law enforcement for a closed society.

"You have to worry about ... are they going to feel open enough to come to us for their needs?" Nigbur said.

A change of guard would still have to be signed off on by the Hildale town council, which is made up of FLDS members.

Smith said he doesn't believe his department will be forced to "take over." Still he acknowledges the police may have to make a choice.

"Warren told them not to cooperate," the sheriff said. "But they need to do the things that are constitutionally required."

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com