A Utah bill that would have disbanded a police department in a town populated by followers of polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs was short-lived.
The proposal to dismantle any department where more than half of the officers have been disciplined in a four-year period was introduced and died Friday.
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Though aimed at the marshal’s office that serves the combined border community of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, it could have “unintended consequences” on small police departments in Utah, said Chief Deputy Utah Attorney General Kirk Torgensen.
“There are a lot of issues, a lot of questions, that are coming up with law enforcement,” he said. “We want to make sure whatever we put on the books was the right thing to put on the books.”
More than third of police departments in Utah — 59 out of 145 — had fewer than 10 officers in 2010, according to numbers published by the Department of Public Safety.
An attorney for the city of Hildale said there could also be civil rights problems with the proposal.
The bill will be studied after the Utah Legislature adjourns this week, and possibly introduced again next year.
Meanwhile, similar legislation in Arizona has passed the Senate unanimously and is set to be heard soon in the House, said Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.
He said he is backing the bill after a law enforcement task force “agreed unanimously the first priority was to get objective police who would uphold the law rather than people who would uphold the authority of Warren Jeffs.
Horne has said 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 people who were not members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), after which officers loyal to the FLDS leadership used their police powers to give the land to other people.