|Jeffs may still be in control of Colorado City|
By JIM SECKLER|
Mohave Daily News
KINGMAN — A bill that would have allowed the Mohave County Sheriff's Office to take control of the Colorado City law enforcement duties was rejected last week.
The Arizona House voted against SB-1433 by a 28-25 margin. It would have allowed Mohave County officials to abolish the Colorado City Police Department. Colorado City is home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints church, a polygamist sect of the Mormon Church.
The bill would have allowed a county's board of supervisors to remove a police department if 50 percent or more of its officers were decertified in the last eight years.
Arizona Rep. Nancy McLain, R-Bullhead City, admits that there have been problems in Colorado City but with Warren Jeffs now in prison, things are changing in the northern Mohave County community. Of the six town officers currently serving, four have been investigated by the Arizona Police Officer Standards and Training Board and have been cleared. The other two are new and no complaints have been filed against them.
Gary Engels, the investigator for the county attorney's office, said Jeffs is still in charge of the FLDS, leading the church sermons held in the community from his jail cell in Texas. His phone privileges have been reinstated after prison officials took them away.
Several complaints from a Utah district court judge have been lodged against the current officers for not enforcing laws. Everyone in the Colorado City police or fire department is in good standing with the FLDS, he added.
One of the church's directives in recent years was to take away the children's toys and take down baseball fields because the church did not want the children to play, to only work or worship.
Engels emphasized that his office's investigation into the polygamist community, which led to several convictions of church members, had nothing to do with religion but rather the practice of marrying underage girls to already married church members.
Senate bill 1433 would have cost the officers their jobs with no due process. The bill, co-sponsored by Arizona Sen. Ron Gould, was an unconstitutional measure that targeted a particular law enforcement agency, McLain said.
"What would prevent another attorney general or another legislation from targeting an agency or person with similar legislation?" asked McLain, who called the bill special legislation.
Gould said that state attorneys reviewed the bill and found that it did not raise any constitutional issues. He argued that the bill would not be special legislation but is legislation that would apply statewide to any police agency including what had happened in Quartzite.
The bill would have applied to officers employed by the police department for the last eight years. That time frame could have been negotiated but the legislators who opposed the bill, including McLain and state Rep. Doris Goodale, simply voted against the bill, Gould added.
Gould also refuted McLain's claim that Jeffs is no longer in control of the FLDS church because Jeffs recently sent the Lake Havasu City Republican senator a 65-page pamphlet with the church's name on it.
Sheriff Tom Sheahan said he was disappointed by McLain and Goodale's vote and said if there was a constitutional issue, the state attorney general's office would not have brought the bill up. He said the Colorado City Marshal's Office needs scrutinized.
"Their actions or inactions just continues on," Sheahan said. "Nothing has changed, just the players."
Sheahan said town officers have been decertified for charges including sexual conduct with a minor, bigamy, refusal to testify at a grand jury, refusing to answer questions in a disposition and seeking directions from a fugitive.
"Our representatives had an opportunity to take a monumental historical step in bringing competent professional law enforcement to this troubled community, but chose not to do so," Sheahan said. "This issue is far from being over."
Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith also said the bill needed to go through. If that many officers have been decertified, then the Colorado City Marshal's Office should not be a law enforcement agency.
Goodale of Kingman, who voted against the bill also said it was dangerous close to be against the state Constitution. No one has filed any complaints against the current officers who would have been fired without due process. A complaint should be formally filed so the rights of all parties are protected, she added.
Goodale said Colorado City only offers an alternate lifestyle and does not practice multiple marriages and that polygamy is not illegal. She also said the bill is special legislation that targets only Colorado City.
Discussing the bill on the legislature floor, Goodale and Arizona Rep. Cecil Ash, who supported the bill, went back and forth in a heated debate. Goodale said she and McLain and been to Colorado City many times and met with residents and said no one has come forth with reports of abuse.
Ash countered that the bill would provide an independent police force to help victims of atrocities, including young girls being raped and held against their will and young boys forced from the community that has been occurring in Colorado City for years. He has heard horror stories from people who escaped Colorado City like Flora Jessop and others.
Goodale questioned him on the atrocities and asked why anyone has not gone to the police in Colorado City.
Originally published Thursday, May 3, 2012
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