If the polygamous policemen in southern Utah refuse to give up their plural wives, the state board that governs police certification will end their careers.
The unanimous stand taken Wednesday by the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) council may strip Hildale Police Chief Sam Roundy of his ability to enforce the law in Utah and ultimately could gut the small department of seven.
”If they did in fact have plural wives, that is against the very sense of being a police officer,” said Ogden city Police Chief Jon Greiner, the POST council vice chairman. They ”have caused law enforcement to suffer a black eye.”
Investigators believe two of the town’s seven officers, including its chief, are polygamists. Others may also be disciplined for failing to report the polygamous actions of their co-workers.
The council’s decision authorizes POST investigators to confront the members of the Hildale Police Department and start disciplinary hearings, which could take months to conclude.
The POST council will have the final decision on any disciplinary actions, from a slight suspension to decertification. Council staff, including POST Director Sid Groll, said a suspension would probably be meaningless because the officers have indicated they will not give uptheir wives. They urged the council to decertify or drop the effort.
POST investigators have reams of evidence compiled by the Utah Attorney General Office’s polygamy investigator, Ron Barton, who examined the Hildale force for eight months. Barton started his investigation following the conviction of Rodney Holm, a now-decertified Hildale officer, who was found guilty of bigamy and unlawful sex with a minor in August 2003.
Attorney General Mark Shurtleff first asked the council to decertify all law enforcement officers who practice polygamy in October 2003 – a request he continues to make.
”They have to obey the law,” he said Wednesday.
”This is a potential felony charge here.”
Shurtleff has declined to file criminal charges, saying his office does not have the resources to prosecute all bigamy cases. Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap has also taken a look at Barton’s investigation, but he has not yet decided if he will file bigamy charges.
”I am still working with the Department of Public Safety to figure out exactly what, if any, proof we have that we can proceed on,” Belnap said.
Hildale and Colorado City, its sister city just across the state line in Arizona, are populated primarily by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christof Latter Day Saints, which practices polygamy. The cities have an agreement that allows some members of their police forces to work in either jurisdication.
Hildale Mayor David Zitting has called the investigation ”a direct attack” on polygamy and he stood behind Roundy, who has acted as chief for at least eight years.
”If Utah decertifies him, he is still in place in Colorado City,” Zitting said. ”I assume the police officers could still function in Hildale and it wouldn’t affect us that much really.”
Another option would be to allow the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, which already patrols the area, to assume responsibility.Roundy was not available for comment Wednesday.
Sep. 23, 2004
Matt Canham, The Salt Lake Tribune