Arizona boots polygamist town cops

The Salt Lake Tribune/September 19, 2007

Police regulators in Arizona on Wednesday revoked the certifications of two peace officers from the polygamist community on the Utah border who wrote letters to then-fugitive Warren Jeffs.

The action also strips the marshals, Fred L. Barlow and Preston L. Barlow, of their Utah powers. Utah laws prohibit anyone from working as a peace officer after they have been decertified in another state. But Utah police regulators still plan a more formal inquiry into the marshals, said Jeff Nigbur, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Public Safety.

Fred Barlow and Preston Barlow are marshals in the twin communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. The towns are home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints with members who practice polygamy as a religious tenant.

Fred L. Barlow, the chief marshal, was accused of three violations. One was for writing a 2005 letter to the then-fugitive FLDS leader Jeffs that pledged allegiance to Jeffs and asked for guidance on operating the marshals office.

The other two violations were for refusing to answer questions from an Arizona attorney general investigator and in a deposition.

Preston Barlow was accused of refusing to answer questions from the same attorney general investigator.

The action by the Arizona regulators follows a ruling last month from a state administrative judge, saying the two marshals committed "nonfeasance" by refusing to answer questions from the attorney general investigator. The judge also sided with state attorneys and said Fred Barlow's letter to Jeffs displayed the marshal's "malfeasance."

The two marshals argued in a July hearing they refused to answer questions from investigators because they believed the questions about the FLDS, Jeffs and the church leadership violated their rights to religious freedom.

Fred Barlow said his correspondence to Jeffs was to satisfy an FLDS custom of writing a letter of accountability but Jeffs did not have the right to dictate how the marshals office operated.

The police in Hildale and Colorado City have been a source of contention for decades with apostates and those who have been evicted from the FLDS claiming the marshals take orders from church leadership and violate the civil rights of non-FLDS.

The marshals' decertification has come during a troublesome three years for the FLDS. Jeffs is on trial in St. George on charges he was an accomplice to rape by wedding a 14-year-old girl to her adult male cousin. In 2005, a judge placed the FLDS' land trust into receivership.

The vote Wednesday by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board was unanimous in favor of decertification. Fred Barlow and Preston Barlow were present Wednesday in Phoenix for the meeting but did not speak. They were represented by attorney Bruce Griffen, who urged the board for a lighter punishment.

In an interview after the vote, Tom Hammarstrom, director of Arizona POST, said marshals in Hildale and Colorado City appear to have more problems than other peace officers in separating their religion from their work, due to the extent the FLDS faith penetrates daily life.

"The bottom line is, however, this is not about religion," Hammarstrom said. "This is about conduct."

Fred and Preston Barlow were two of the communities' five full-time marshals. The sheriff's offices from Washington County, Utah, and Mohave County, Ariz., also maintain a presence in the towns.

Hildale Mayor David Zitting said Wednesday the two towns have two cadets enrolled in Utah's police academy. As for Fred and Preston Barlow, Zitting said Arizona regulators were entitled to their decision.

"For our community they've done a good job and they're good officers," Zitting said.

Utah police regulators have planned to review the marshals after their counterparts in Arizona finished their inquiries.

They are the fifth and sixth Hildale-Colorado City marshals to be decertified by one of the states in the last four years. Mica Barlow quit the marshals office then was decertified in 2006 after he refused to answer grand jury questions on Jeffs' whereabouts. Sam Roundy and deputy Vance Barlow were decertified in 2005 for being practicing bigamists. In 2003, former marshal Rodney Holm was decertified after being convicted of bigamy and sexual conduct with a minor.

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