EXCLUSIVE: Hildale, Justice Dept. taking Utah’s police watchdog agency to court

Posted at 9:53 PM, Jun 15, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- The agency that certifies and disciplines police officers in Utah is being taken to court because it refuses to hand over investigative files on police officers in the polygamous border towns of Hildale and Colorado City.

Both Hildale and the U.S. Department of Justice are asking a federal judge to order  Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to release its investigative files to them.

POST refuses.

"Our policy, and to be consistent with what our practices are, we do not release ongoing investigations," Scott Stephenson, the executive director of Utah POST, said in an interview with FOX 13 News.

POST reluctantly confirmed to FOX 13 News it had an open and ongoing investigation into the Colorado City Town Marshal's Office, but refused to say what exactly it was looking into.

The court fight began earlier this year when the lawyer for Hildale subpoenaed POST for its files on the police force, and sought a deposition from an investigator. POST filed to quash the subpoena, arguing that its investigation was ongoing.

Then, the U.S. Department of Justice jumped in, writing in court papers that the files were necessary because "the cities' governments, including the Marshal's Office, have been deployed to carry out the will and dictates of FLDS leaders, particularly Warren Jeffs."

POST still refuses to hand over the files.

"This is, I think, the first time that we and the Justice Department are on the same page in this case," said Hildale City Attorney Blake Hamilton.

The Justice Department has a pending lawsuit against Hildale and Colorado City, accusing the town governments of discriminating against non-FLDS members. Jeffs is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for child sex assault, related to underage marriages.

Stephenson insisted POST was cooperating and involved in ongoing discussions with both sides.

"We have had meetings with them to let them know, 'Here's what we have.' To release the investigative report? That's something we're not going to do," he said.

A federal judge is being asked to hold a hearing on whether POST should give up its files on the police force. Stephenson said they would comply with a court order.

"If we received one, we would release the information but we'd prefer not to until our investigation is complete," he said.

Meanwhile, the town marshals are facing a new threat. At a recent court hearing involving the FLDS Church's United Effort Plan (UEP) Trust, the Arizona Attorney General's Office revealed it planned to file court papers on Monday to dismantle the police force and turn law enforcement over to Mohave County (and, presumably, neighboring Washington County, Utah).

Hamilton told FOX 13 News they would fight it.

"I am not aware of any legal authority that would support the proposition that under those areas of law, the state of Arizona can dismantle the marshal's office there," he said.