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Polygamist officers face loss of badges

Published: Wednesday, March 16 2005 9:13 a.m. MST

ST. GEORGE — Colorado City town marshal Sam Roundy is facing the loss of his badge and job of 11 years if Utah takes away his right to patrol the plural community he lives in along the Utah/Arizona border.

Administrative Law Judge Richard Wyss ruled that Roundy was in default because he failed to attend a Jan. 26 hearing that challenged his status as a peace officer. The Utah Division of Peace Officer Standards and Training filed a complaint against Roundy in October 2004, alleging he was practicing plural marriage in violation of Utah's constitution and state law prohibiting bigamy.

Roundy did not deny on Tuesday that he has more than one wife. He said he did not attend the hearing in Salt Lake City because he believed the issue would be reviewed at the upcoming Utah POST meeting next week.

"They juiced up that report. They put things in there that I did not say," said Roundy of the investigator's report provided to Wyss at the hearing. Roundy is fiercely protective of his family and said that he is living an important tenet of his religion by having more than one wife. Roundy is a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose members openly practice plural marriage.

"Every cop has a religion, but religion doesn't run my job," Roundy said. "We work closely with other agencies and do our jobs. Utah is saying we don't have the confidence of the people, and it's just the opposite of what they're saying. We grew up in this culture and we're part of it. It's religious persecution going after polygamy, that's all it is."

Wyss also recommended that Utah POST revoke Roundy's peace officer certification at its next meeting, which is scheduled next week in St. George. A formal vote is expected to approve the recommendation, said Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith.

Roundy said Tom Hammarstrom, executive director of Arizona's POST, paid him a visit last week.

"He said if Utah went ahead with the decertification, then Arizona would probably follow," Roundy said. "He was up-front with me."

The "Colorado City polygamy issue" is on the agenda of the Arizona's Peace Officer Standards and Training Board meeting scheduled today in Phoenix. No action is expected at today's meeting.

The Arizona board earlier voted to ask its Rules Committee to consider rule revisions that would allow it to address concerns related to polygamy. The same body tried to revoke former Colorado City town marshal Sam Barlow's certification on the same polygamy charge but was rebuffed by an Arizona administrative judge who ruled there was no evidence to suggest Barlow was unable to do his job.

Roundy said the question of whether Utah's bigamy statute is constitutional is already before the Utah Supreme Court and Utah's POST should wait for the court's ruling before deciding his case.

"They've got this idea that if they get rid of the chief, then they get rid of the police department here," said Roundy, a 1989 graduate of the Arizona Peace Officers and Standards Training (POST). "That's just ludicrous."

Colorado City's seven-member police force, which includes five full-time and two reserve officers, is cross-certified to work in Arizona and Utah. The status of the force and whether certain officers should be decertified by Utah and Arizona POST for their plural lifestyles has been discussed for a couple of years.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said during a March 3 town hall meeting on polygamy held in St. George that he supports the decertification of the officers.

"Utah POST is looking to decertify police officers living in bigamy, even if they are adults," said Shurtleff. "If you're in a position of leadership, of responsibility, you have to be above the law (above reproach). I'm not here to apologize for that."

Utah and Arizona both prohibit polygamy in their state constitutions, although there is no criminal statute addressing the act. Former Colorado City police officer Rodney Holm was decertified after being convicted of bigamy and unlawful sex with a minor. He appealed his bigamy conviction to the Utah Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on the issue.

Most residents of Colorado City and its neighbor, Hildale, Washington County, are members of the FLDS Church and practice polygamy as a core doctrine.

Hildale Mayor David Zitting has said his city enjoys round-the-clock police protection and 911 services through Colorado City at a cost of about $54,000 per year. Hildale residents usually account for a little more than 30 percent of the calls received by Colorado City dispatch.

"The police service is great. I don't know why they'd want to disrupt that," said Zitting.

Critics of the Colorado City police department charge that the officers are polygamists who answer only to Warren Jeffs, the reclusive leader of the FLDS church. Jeffs recently was ruled in default for not responding to a civil lawsuit filed against him in 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City.


E-mail: nperkins@desnews.com

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