SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Utah authorities have revoked the police certification of one polygamist officer and they vow to do the same with all others.
The action by the Peace Officer Standards and Training council comes after state officials said the police were hampering investigations into underage marriages.
”They are sworn officers, and they are sworn to uphold the law, but they are openly committing third-degree-felony bigamy,” Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, a member of the POST council, said Thursday. He was quoted in a copyright story in The Salt Lake Tribune.
”They are in dereliction of their duty,” said South Ogden Police Chief Val Shupe, who also is president of the Utah Chiefs of Police Association.
The action particularly targets Hildale, Utah, and its sister city, Colorado City, Ariz. Most of the residents are members of the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. City officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Prosecutors have been going after members of the FLDS and other polygamist sects who take child brides.
Former Hildale police officer Rodney Holm was convicted Aug. 14 of one count of bigamy and two counts of unlawful sex with a minor, and was sentenced Oct. 10 to one year in jail.
On Thursday, POST revoked his police certification in Utah.
All of the Hildale officers are cross-deputized in Arizona, meaning they still could enforce the law in Colorado City if they lost their Utah certification.
The half dozen or so other Hildale officers have not been charged with a crime, but Shurtleff said the state has the right to stop them from enforcing the law.
He cited the 1980s case of Murray police officer Royston Potter, who went public about his polygamous lifestyle and then was fired. Potter unsuccessfully sued to get his job. back.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with lower court rulings that Potter’s right to free exercise of religion did not allow him to violate Utah’s bigamy law. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the case.
However, some polygamy supporters believe that the court might rule different today, and they cite the high court’s recent ruling overturning a Texas sodomy law.
Shurtleff said he would provide POST investigators the names of Hildale officers he believes have multiple wives.
”We will work to find out what evidence we have indicating if all or some are in bigamous relationships,” he said. ”We are not just targeting Hildale. It is just that we know about Hildale.”
Shurtleff said he made the request because of his office’s ”frustration in dealing with law enforcement down there.
”Not only have they not cooperated, they have stood in our way,” he said.
Shurtleff said the police chief has blocked investigation into whether FLDS leader Warren Jeffs has performed ceremonies involving child brides.
He said his investigators went to Chief Sam Roundy with subpoenas for church leadership in 2002 demanding certain documents, but Roundy stalled to allow Jeffs to leave Utah and then refused to help serve the subpoenas.
If POST revokes the police certification of all or most of the Hildale police force, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office will take over law enforcement responsibilities in the area, Sheriff Kirk Smith said.
Arizona’s Mohave County is planning to build a sheriff’s substation in Colorado City, which is to include space for Washington County deputies.