Arizona to beef up patrols of polygamist Jeffs' town
(Reuters) - Arizona will funnel more than $400,000 to a sheriff's office on the Utah-Arizona border to beef up police patrols of a town that is home to followers of imprisoned polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, the state's Attorney General said on Thursday.
The money will aid Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan in providing police services in Colorado City, one of two communities dominated by members of Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The Colorado City Town Marshal's Office currently provides police services for its own community, as well as just across the border in Hildale, Utah. The towns have a combined population of roughly 7,000 residents.
"This action is necessary because of evidence that local police placed their allegiance to Warren Jeffs over their duty to enforce the law objectively, regardless of people's religion," Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said in a statement.
The Attorney General's office alleged that local police have apprehended young women trying to run away from the community and dragged them back, effectively making the women prisoners.
The $420,000 for Mohave County comes in the form of a grant funded by assets forfeited during criminal drug prosecutions in joint state and federal cases.
The grant has been approved by the federal government and will take effect in July after it is formally accepted by Mohave County's board of supervisors, Horne's office said.
Among the officers' alleged offenses were polygamy, refusing to answer questions about Jeffs when the church leader remained a fugitive and failing to enforce orders related to the Utah takeover of a church property trust, authorities have said.
The police department regularly reviews its procedures, Blake Hamilton, a Salt Lake City-based attorney representing the Colorado City Town Marshal's Office, said on Thursday, adding that he is unaware of any recent complaints.
"I think Tom Horne has got sour grapes," Hamilton said. "He tried to pick some low hanging fruit and lost. He tried to clean up the 'problem' of polygamy by going after the marshal's office and he failed."
A spokeswoman for Sheahan said the sheriff was traveling Thursday and not available. But in a statement, the sheriff said he appreciates the resources Horne is providing.
"This funding will allow us to increase our patrol presence in Colorado City and provide unbiased law enforcement services that the citizens do not have with the Town Marshal's Office," the sheriff said in a statement.
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has been condemned by the mainstream Mormon Church and is accused of promoting marriages between older men and girls.
Warren Jeffs, considered the spiritual leader of the group, was found guilty last year of sexually assaulting two underage girls he had wed. He is in protective custody in a prison in Palestine, Texas, serving a life term plus 20 years.
He still exerts influence over the sect through his brothers, sends out prophetic messages to public officials and has taken out advertisements in newspapers across the country.
(Editing by Mary Slosson)
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