Polygamist cop loses Utah certification; others targeted

Associated Press/October 18, 2003

Utah authorities have revoked the certification of one polygamist police officer and vow to do the same with others.

The Peace Officer Standards and Training Council made the pledge 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 council, said in a copyrighted story in Friday's edition of 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 cities' residents are members of the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. A phone message left Friday by The Associated Press with Hildale Police Chief Sam Roundy was not immediately returned.

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.

The council notified Holm on Aug. 21 that his certification had been revoked, said group spokesman Sgt. Dave Attridge.

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. It was not immediately known how many officers Hildale has, but Shupe and Attridge estimated the number to be about six.

These 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 the court might rule differently today, citing 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."

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 Roundy with subpoenas for church leadership in 2002 demanding certain documents, but Roundy stalled to allow Jeffs time to leave Utah and then refused to help serve the subpoenas.

If the council 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.

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