FLDS towns push back against dismantling police department, government oversight

Salt Lake City — The border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., are pushing back against a demand by the U.S. Justice Department to dismantle their police department and implement strict government oversight.

In a court filing in U.S. District Court in Phoenix on Tuesday, the town governments called such action “unprecedented.”

“The United States’ requested injunctive relief would tear apart the very fabrics of the Cities and the residents they serve. The goal is not to destroy, but for this Court to impose the least intrusive injunctive relief to ensure the Cities’ compliance with the law,” Colorado City attorney Jeffrey Matura and Hildale attorney Blake Hamilton wrote.

Earlier this year, a jury sided with the U.S. Justice Department in a lawsuit it filed against Hildale and Colorado City, accusing them of acting as de facto arms of Warren Jeffs’ Fundamentalist LDS Church and discriminating against non-members in policing and other services. The judge overseeing the case asked for recommendations on what to do.

The federal government has advocated for dismantling the Colorado City Town Marshal’s Office and appointing an overseer to the town governments. (Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has also said he supports getting rid of the police force.)

In their filing, Hildale and Colorado City suggested they adopt non-discrimination policies and undergo training — but said there is no need to dismantle the police department or force the towns to subdivide properties. The towns noted that a court-appointed monitor would be expensive, and the Washington and Mohave County sheriffs have expressed concerns about taking over policing services. Matura and Hamilton said no officer in Hildale or Colorado City has been decertified since 2007.

The judge has scheduled a hearing in the fall to decide what to do.