Their loyalty to jailed polygamous sect leader Jeffs could compromise their willingness to uphold laws
HILDALE – The cops in this town don’t communicate over radios like other police agencies. The marshals are dispatched by calls to their cellular phones.
Washington County sheriff’s deputies who also patrol the town are accustomed to hearing updates on their scanners. But here, they see marshals drive past with lights flashing and sirens wailing and have no idea what’s happening.
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“We don’t usually know what’s going on unless we follow them,” said Washington County sheriff’s Deputy Darrell Cashin.
Locals rarely speak to outsiders in Hildale and Colorado City, Ariz., the traditional home of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The towns’ marshals appear reflective of their community – and for police regulators in Utah and Arizona, that’s the problem.
Chief Marshal Fred Barlow is facing revocation of his police certification by Arizona authorities, who cite an October 2005 letter Barlow wrote pledging allegiance to FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, then a wanted fugitive.
Regulators in both states are exploring claims that Barlow and other marshals refused to answer questions under oath and from state investigators, and did not investigate thefts in the community. Utah is investigating the entire office, believed to have five full-time officers and others who serve in reserve.
The marshals’ aloofness seems to include crime reporting. Hildale listed three crimes – two burglaries and a larceny – in 2004, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety. The Washington County Attorney’s Office says Hildale has brought it four felony cases since April 2004.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety notes in its 2005 report on Mohave County that Colorado City did not provide complete data.
Crime-fighting process questioned
People who have left the FLDS faith claim marshals handle many crimes by reporting offenders to FLDS leaders, who dole out adjudication. Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith said he has told the marshals it’s impossible their towns, with a shared population of about 6,000, have so little crime.
Child abuse and sex abuse are present in every community, Smith said, but those offenses in particular are not being reported.
Still, Smith said the two states should take their time investigating and giving due process to the marshals.
“This is not going to be another Short Creek raid,” Smith said, referring to how Arizona authorities descended on the community in 1953 and rounded up suspected polygamists. “We’re not trying to harass them.”
Rich Townsend, the director of the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, said the current crop of marshals has told him they’re not polygamists.
The issue is their work, says Bruce Wisan, the court-appointed fiduciary of a property trust formerly run by FLDS leaders. He has complained that marshals have not investigated the theft of trust-owned industrial equipment and other property.
The marshals also have refused to answer questions under oath, including inquiries about the thefts and whether they recognize Wisan’s authority, he said.
“I don’t think that non-FLDS get independent police services from the marshal’s office,” Wisan said.
Barlow did not return calls, and other marshals declined to speak. Hildale Mayor David Zitting, one of the few FLDS faithful who will speak to reporters, said the marshals do an excellent job and the cities want them to stay.
Zitting said every police department has complaints from citizens and other agencies, and the marshals have been scrutinized because of other concerns about the community. But the marshals have tried to uphold the law, the mayor said, and he believes the towns will not be as safe if they are decertified.
“If issues come up, they want to maintain peace and try to resolve the issue,” Zitting said, “and there’s always more than one side to every issue.”
‘They don’t . . . say much’
If the marshals are effectively terminated by the states, who will police the towns?
“It’s going to be very difficult to get [the community] to trust us,” said Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan, whose agency likely would become more involved.
In the past few years, the sheriff’s offices and prosecutors in Washington and Mohave counties, with some assistance from the federal government, have investigated, charged and jailed Jeffs. The faith’s leader is accused of being an accomplice to sex crimes in Utah and Arizona for allegedly arranging spiritual marriages.
The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office and the county attorney have an office in Colorado City. One sheriff’s deputy from Washington County currently patrols Hildale.
Recent attempts to halt lesser violations – such as not heeding stop signs or not using seat belts on the van-loads of children seen traveling through town – have rankled residents, who were accustomed to such laws not being enforced, Smith said.
On a Tuesday night in late December, Cashin was watching for speeders from his marked sport utility vehicle on a Hildale street outside Jeffs’ walled-off compound. A marshal arrived and asked him to move, saying residents had complained about Cashin sitting there.
Cashin has been with the office for 4 1/2 years and has been assigned to Hildale since November. He said the towns’ residents are not used to seeing outsiders.
“If they talk to you, they don’t really say much to you,” Cashin said. “You ask them where somebody is and they say they don’t know.”
Calling for backup
Ross Chatwin, 38, is an FLDS apostate who was arrested by the marshals in September 2004 as he tried to enter a house a judge awarded him. The marshals claimed it wasn’t his house.
Despite his disagreements with them, Chatwin said decertifying the marshals would discourage residents from reporting crimes such as domestic violence and sex abuse.
The best solution, Chatwin said, might be to dismiss Barlow, hire a chief marshal from outside the community, and keep the deputy marshals.
“They know everybody and know how the system works there,” Chatwin said.
Hildale and Colorado City could replace the marshals, though Zitting said there have been no such discussions.
Sheahan said he has a plan in place should the marshals be removed. He declined to elaborate but said it includes hiring more deputies and providing housing for them in Short Creek.
Smith said his office is formulating a plan in case the marshals are decertified.
Cashin believes he can make inroads with the residents there but says it will take a long time.
“They’re going to have to see they can trust me,” Cashin said, “that I’m not there to attack their way of life.”
In Utah, an investigator is preparing a report for the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council. It can discipline the marshals, including decertification. In Arizona, regulators have filed administrative charges against Marshal Fred Barlow and Deputy Marshal Preston Barlow. Both are accused of refusing to answer questions from an investigator for the state’s attorney general. Fred Barlow also is charged with writing to a federal fugitive, Warren Jeffs, and not answering questions in a deposition. The letter was intercepted in 2005 when Jeffs’ brother was found in Colorado with correspondence believed destined for Jeffs. Marshals’ past troubles
Investigating the Marshal’s Office in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., is not new territory.
Last year, Deputy Marshal Mica Barlow was held in a federal detention center for contempt of court after refusing to answer questions from a grand jury believed to have been investigating Warren Jeffs’ whereabouts. Barlow later resigned.
In 2005, Utah and Arizona decertified Marshals Sam Roundy and Vance Barlow for practicing bigamy. Arizona also found Roundy failed to report cases of child sex abuse to the state.
In 2002, Marshal Rodney Holm was charged and subsequently convicted of Utah criminal charges related to taking a third wife.
In the 1980s, Marshal Sam Barlow, uncle of current Chief Marshal Fred Barlow, was an admitted polygamist. Utah and Arizona revoked his police certification, but an Arizona judge later ruled there was no evidence he had neglected his duties. Dozens of peace officers submitted affidavits supporting Sam Barlow. Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith recalls Sam Barlow as helpful when there was an arrest warrant for a resident. Lawsuits claimed Sam Barlow violated residents’ civil rights by evicting from the town people who had fallen out of favor with the church, including numerous teenage boys.