KINGMAN, Ariz. - Law enforcement presence is being increased in the predominately polygamous community of Colorado City because of concerns that town marshals are ignoring the law in favor of marching orders from Warren Jeffs, imprisoned leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne on Thursday announced he is allocating $420,000 in grant money to fund a manpower boost enabling more Mohave County sheriff's deputies to patrol the community on the northern Arizona border with Utah.
Horne and Sheriff Tom Sheahan said they have been working on the plan since Arizona lawmakers last month rejected legislation that would have allowed a possible sheriff's office takeover of law enforcement responsibility from Colorado City's marshal's office.
Horne said lawmakers defeated the measure despite evidence that the law was taking a backseat to edicts from Jeffs, who is serving prison time in Texas for sex offenses with underage girls.
"The testimony showed that they (the marshals) are all loyal to Warren Jeffs rather than the law; that if one were not totally loyal to Jeffs, he would lose his job, his wives and his children; that when girls try to escape from their harems, local police catch them and drag them back so that they are prisoners; that local police have participated in expelling about 1,000 young men to other cities or just to highways where they hitchhike so that the old men can dominate the young girls without competition from the younger men," Horne said.
Sheahan serves on the Arizona board that certifies and decertifies law enforcement officers. He said the town marshals frequently look the other way when enforcing the law might conflict with lifestyle and culture espoused by Jeffs and the FLDS hierarchy.
"They have allowed a lot of people to get away with traffic offenses, people transporting nine children in a van with two car seats. These things are going to stop," Sheahan said.
He is preparing to dispatch deputies to Colorado City early next month, presuming the Board of Supervisors accepts the grant allocation during a July 2 meeting.
"We're going to have patrols in Colorado City 16 hours a day," said Sheahan, noting residents then will have a choice when calling for help. "There will be deputies there for anybody in Colorado City that needs a deputy sheriff and they do not need to deal with the marshal's office because we will be there."
Sheahan said he knows his deputies won't be welcome by church leaders or town marshals.
"There could be friction, but we're going to be there. I'm the elected chief law enforcement officer of the county, and we're going to do whatever is necessary to make sure people have fair and unbiased law enforcement services," Sheahan said. "If people interfere, or get in the way, if necessary, we're going to cuff them and take them to jail in Kingman."
A telephone call seeking comment from Colorado City Town Manager David Darger was not returned.