POST Seeks Action Against Cop In Polygamist Town

Associated Press/June 29, 2006

Utah's police academy will seek disciplinary action against an officer from a polygamist border town who ignored a subpoena from an Arizona grand jury and was subsequently jailed for contempt of court.

Maj. Rich Townsend, director of the Utah Peace Officer Standards And Training Academy, said he'll seek action against Mica S. Barlow when the POST Council, the academy's governing board, resumes its meetings in September.

"This should not happen," Townsend said. "These officers are officers of the court, and they are sworn to uphold the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state they operate in. When they don't, they are violating the peace officer's code of ethics."

Barlow, 36, is a police officer with the Colorado City, Ariz., marshal's office. He is also certified by the state of Utah, as are most of the department's officers.

A telephone message seeking comment from Colorado City Town Marshal Fred Barlow was not immediately returned.

On April 5, Mica Barlow disregarded a subpoena to testify before a federal grand jury in Phoenix. U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton issued a warrant for his arrest on a contempt charge. Barlow surrendered to authorities April 6 and remains incarcerated at the Central Arizona Detention Facility in Florence. The judge's order says Barlow is to remain in jail until he cooperates with authorities, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

Grand jury proceedings are secret, so it's not been disclosed why Barlow received a subpoena.

Townsend said he'll ask for a hearing before an administrative judge, to determine if Barlow has violated ethics standards. From the administrative judge's ruling, the POST Council decides if disciplinary measures should be taken and could range from no action, to suspension for up to three years or decertification, Townsend said. Any action could be appealed, he said.

Barlow will be sent a letter notifying him of the hearing, which he can attend, although since he's locked up, POST could arrange to hold the hearing inside the Arizona jail, Townsend said. The case is precedent-setting, Townsend said.

"We are kind of in uncharted waters here," he said. "As far as I know, in the history of POST ... this is the first situation where an officer has been jailed for contempt."

Police in Hildale and Colorado City have been in hot water with POST before.

Most residents of the towns, including some police officers, are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a sect that believes plural marriage will guarantee their salvation in the afterlife.

Last year, the police chief and one officer were decertified for practicing polygamy, which is illegal in both Utah and Arizona. And the department has also been criticized for having a cozy relationship with FLDS leaders.

The department has been under increased scrutiny since June 2005, when church leader Warren Jeffs was charged with a felony in Arizona, accused of arranging marriages between underage girls and older men. Now facing similar charges in Utah, Jeffs, 50, is in hiding and was recently named to the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list.

Townsend said all the Hildale-Colorado City officers were warned in a March letter that they have a duty to uphold state and federal laws

The hand-delivered letters came on the heels of complaints that police have failed to enforce court-orders related to a church trust that was placed state control in 2005 after a judge said church leaders had mismanaged its assets.

Barlow's refusal to testify before the grand jury "is what they were warned not to do," Townsend said.

Arizona's POST officials, who also delivered letters to officers, said Wednesday they are aware of Barlow's contempt case and have opened an investigation. But they've not yet decided to take any action, because they don't know specifically why Barlow was charged with contempt, said Gary Maschner, an Arizona POST compliance officer.

"We don't want to jump too soon," Maschner said. "Because the grand jury is secret, they can't disclose what the requested testimony was. That's what we're waiting to find out."

Any action taken by Utah against Barlow will be information added to his Arizona case file and considered, Maschner said.

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