ReligionNewsBlog.com — A bill under which Colorado City, Arizona — a town controlled by leaders of the polygamous FLDS cult — would be forced to disband its police force has advanced in the Arizona Legislature.
The measure was approved unanimously Wednesday by the Senate Committee on Government Reform.
Senate Bill 1433 would allow the Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne to shut down a municipal police force whenever more than half of the average number of officers has been decertified over a period of time.
In that case, the county sheriff would take over responsibility for public safety — a service for which the town would be billed.
The Arizona Republic News says that at present among Arizona’s 91 incorporated communities, Colorado City is believed to be the only one that would meet that criteria.
Colorado City and its sister community, Hildale, Utah, have been targeted for years by authorities in connection with under-age marriages, fraud and other crimes. The church’s president and prophet, Warren Jeffs, is serving a life sentence in Texas for having sexual relations with underage girls.
Investigators and former church members complain that town officers ignore the law and instead carry out directives from spiritual leaders.
According to Arizona’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, Colorado City averages 10 officers at any one time. A half-dozen of them have been decertified in recent years, some for misconduct with minors and others after declaring their allegiance to the FLDS prophet above the law.
Horne says that officers in Colorado City have actively interfered with the law. As a example he mentioned a case in which a court awarded property to non-FLDS members, after which officers loyal to the FLDS leadership used their police powers to give the land to other people.
Former FLDS member, and active critics, Flora Jessop says the bill is necessary because oppression within the cult appears to be at its worst in 15 years.
“It’s getting to the point where people actually fear for their safety because of the police department,” she said.
Following a legal review by the Rules Committee, SB 1433 would be sent to the full Senate and, if passed, on to the House.