COLORADO CITY, Arizona – This month, the ax of justice is swinging over the border towns of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah.
Last week, a Utah judge declared her desire to begin evicting nonpaying residents living on United Effort Plan trust properties in the area, commonly known to locals as “Short Creek” and primarily populated by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This week, the Arizona attorney general has asked a federal judge to disband the Short Creek community’s police force due to allegations that officers have discriminated against residents who are not FLDS, have impeded the efforts of outside investigating agencies, have doctored official records and have, in essence, been loyal to FLDS leaders above the law.
Tuesday, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, who has in the past declared that monitoring the FLDS community in Colorado City is one of his office’s highest priorities, announced the filing of a proposed form of judgment in the U.S. District Court that seeks, among other things, the disbandment of the Marshal’s Office in Colorado City and Hildale and the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee municipal functions in the community.
“The disbandment of the Colorado City/Hildale Marshal’s Office is necessary and appropriate because this police department has operated for decades, and continues to operate, as the de facto law enforcement arm of the FLDS Church,” Horne said, as quoted in a press release from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. “We have introduced legislation for the past three years to transfer law enforcement to the Mohave County sheriff and unfortunately it has failed to pass.”
“Testimony in support of this legislation,” Horne continued, “shows that when girls have tried to escape from the town, the Marshalls forced them back, and committed many other injustices. When the legislation failed, I found $400,000 per year to transfer to the Mohave County sheriff, to have at least one sheriff in Colorado City. As a result, girls have escaped who said they couldn’t have without the sheriff there.”
In an April deposition, Colorado City Chief of Police Helaman Barlow detailed corruption in the Marshal’s Office and admitted under oath that he had personally lied multiple times on the stand during his testimony in the case of Cooke v. Colorado City. Residents Ronald and Jinjer Cooke recently sued the town for discrimination, saying they had been denied utility services because they were not FLDS members and because Ronald Cooke has a disability, according to court documents. The Cookes were awarded $5.2 million in March when a jury found that Hildale and Colorado City had been denying them utility access for years.
In exchange for immunity, Barlow, who is reportedly no longer an FLDS member, not only confessed to lying during the trial but admitted the FLDS Church controls the Marshal’s Office in Colorado City and Hildale and that marshals act in favor of FLDS members and cause harm to nonmembers.
Among statements Barlow made in his deposition, he admitted to secretly recording meetings with federal and Texas investigators while FLDS Church leader Warren Jeffs was a fugitive, then enabling the tapes to be delivered to Jeffs, who was in hiding at the time but has since been imprisoned for child sexual abuse of underage girls he had taken as brides.
Barlow further admitted that law enforcement officers in Colorado City/Hildale have blockaded the efforts of outside agencies by alerting community members when they were about to be served warrants or subpoenas, so they could avoid officers attempting to serve the documents.
Barlow additionally admitted to looking the other way when FLDS members, including a deputy in the Marshal’s Office, have taken underage brides. He also stated that Mohave County Sheriff’s deputies have had to repeatedly stop law enforcement officers in the community from arresting non-FLDS members without probable cause and that Colorado City manager David Darger has altered numerous police reports, including altering a report that caused detriment to the subject, who was a non-FLDS member.
“My office will not tolerate corrupt law enforcement agencies in this State, and the disbandment of what is perhaps the most corrupt police department in the history of this State will go a long way toward protecting the public from further discrimination and harm in these communities,” Horne said.
The judgment filed by Horne’s office Tuesday provides for full law enforcement responsibility, authority and police dispatch services within Colorado City and Hildale to be transferred to the Mohave County Sheriff’s Department and the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, with all expenses to be paid by Colorado City and Hildale.
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