Police in Arizona are beginning daily patrols in Colorado City, a polygamist community that was once home to Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) leader Warren Jeffs.
The patrols come after a complaint was filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against the Colorado City government and local marshal’s office alleging civil rights violations.
The complaint, which was announced on June 21, alleges the Colorado City Marshal’s Office “routinely uses its enforcement authority to enforce the edicts and will of the FLDS; fails to protect non-FLDS individuals from victimization by FLDS individuals; refuses to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies’ investigations of FLDS individuals; selectively enforces laws against non-FLDS; and uses its authority to facilitate unlawful evictions of non-FLDS, among other unlawful conduct.”
In April, the Arizona House of Representatives killed a bill that would have replaced local police in the town with Mohave County sheriff’s deputies.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, who provided funding for the new patrols, had supported the bill. Horne said he believed it was essential and would prevent officers in the town, where many are related, from following orders from Warren Jeffs and other FLDS leaders.
The $500,000 grant from the attorney general’s office will help pay for overtime and “expenses to provide fair and unbiased law enforcement services,” the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
“This is a monumental occasion and we are focusing our efforts on helping those in this community who are in need … to root out corruption in this city government,” Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan said.
In 2011, Jeffs was convicted by a Texas jury of having sex with two girls, who were 15 and 12 years old. DNA evidence at the trial proved Jeffs had fathered a child with the 15-year-old girl.
Jeffs has reportedly been trying to maintain his control of the FLDS, even from behind bars. The Deseret News reported last month that Jeffs had issued an edict naming 15 men who were to father all future children in the sect. A year previously, sources told the paper that Jeffs had ordered all members of the sect, even those who were married, to stop having sex.
Membership in the polygamist community has decreased following revelations of sexual abuse, the arrest of prominent officials and the takeover of a financial trust by the state of Utah in 2005.
The church’s remaining 10,000 members live mostly in Colorado City and Hilldale, Utah.