Feb 18, 2017

CCMO marshal denies claims of unlawful conduct

Kevin Jenkins , kevin@thespectrum.com
The Spectrum
February 18, 2017

The attorneys representing Hildale and Colorado City in a lawsuit that seeks to disband the marshals policing Southern Utah’s stateline polygamous community are asking a federal judge to accept a correction to what they say is false information about an officer’s criminal background.

Attorneys Jeffrey Matura and Blake Hamilton, in a motion filed Thursday, asked Arizona District Judge Russel Holland to receive an unscheduled rebuttal to what was expected to be the government’s final word on the matter last month.

In the government’s filing, prosecutors repeated prior arguments that the law enforcement office in Hildale and Colorado City, collectively known as Short Creek, in the rural strip of land that straddles the Utah-Arizona state line between Grand Canyon and Zion national parks, has defied all prior efforts at reform amid residents’ claims that the marshals selectively enforce the law to favor the polygamous church that counts most city officials among its members.

Holland is expected to make a ruling in coming weeks on whether to disband the marshals, require Colorado City to subdivide multi-resident land parcels for taxation purposes, and establish a court-enforcement “monitor” to oversee changes in the way the cities administer building permits, utility connections and city fees.

Holland’s decision would constitute a “post-trial” judgment on matters not fully resolved after jurors found the Short Creek municipalities guilty of violating federal fair housing and anti-discrimination laws last year.

But in the government’s Jan. 24 filing, prosecutors included information that the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Council had rejected the application of a new marshal – identified as Taylor Barlow – because he has a criminal history that includes felony conduct.

POST Compliance Manager Mark Perkovich’s statement filed with the Arizona court said Colorado City’s law enforcement administration should have identified the problems with the officer’s application but instead allowed him to work as an officer.

Perkovich also states that Barlow has Utah police certification, but states Barlow’s description of his criminal activity to Arizona POST has “discrepancies” in comparison with his earlier application to Utah POST.

The motion filed this week by Matura and Hamilton includes Barlow’s affidavit disputing Perkovich’s claims.

Barlow, 26, states he is a resident of Centennial Park, a polygamous community that separated itself from Colorado City and the community’s dominant Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints more than 30 years ago.

Barlow states he has never been a member of the FLDS church and that none of his ancestors have been part of the FLDS church. Although Perkovich does not claim Barlow is FLDS, Barlow’s statement appears to imply that he has no reason to profess the fealty to the FLDS church that other officers have been accused of.

While nearly all of the Colorado City marshals are the target of disciplinary investigations by Arizona’s POST council as a result of claims leveled during last year’s trial, Barlow was hired more recently and works for the marshal’s office on the Utah side of the state line.

Barlow’s affidavit denies he worked as a marshal on the Arizona side of the state line without proper certification. Rather, he states that during field training required for POST applicants, he participated in exercises with the CCMO that occasionally required him to ride along with officers when they were dispatched to calls on the Arizona side of the line.

“I never identified myself as a certified officer in Arizona; rather, I only (exited) the vehicle on the orders of the Field Training Officer,” Barlow states.

Regarding the criminal history that Perkovich states was troubling to Arizona POST, Barlow adds information about two youthful incidents in an attempt to refute the claim he was involved in serious crimes.

When he was 14 years old, he and his friends entered a commercial building “and took some items,” but his guilty conscience led him to turn himself in the next day “and do what I could to atone for my conduct,” which ended with a juvenile court referral, he states.

Arizona POST alleges that Barlow stole a vehicle and sold marijuana when he was 17 and 18 years old, respectively, which Barlow denies. His affidavit states some people he was walking with got into a water truck and took it “for a ride around town” during the alleged incident, and that he and other acquaintances followed the truck for a while but weren’t involved in taking it.

Barlow’s affidavit further states that he and a friend “received marijuana for experimentation” in the second incident, but then changed their minds and gave it to someone else. He thought he might have received money for it, but after speaking with other people present they determined no one had paid or received money.

Barlow states he withdrew his Arizona POST application to clarify the issues and was told by another compliance officer that doing so would not brand him as having been rejected by the council, contrary to Perkovich’s claims.

Barlow also states he has not been sent a denial letter by POST, and that POST has not referred his case for discussion in any of its meetings. Perkovich did issue a letter to Chief Marshal Jerry Darger on Dec. 20 stating Barlow’s application would not be accepted because of the three “felonies,” however, and that a case would be presented to the board because of concerns about Barlow being employed with the CCMO.

The case was closed when Darger asked to rescind the application Dec. 30.

The filing by Matura and Hamilton this week also asks the court to recognize the government’s recent resolution of two other law enforcement investigations that the defendants argue are more serious in nature but resulted in penalties that didn’t include disbandment.

The first involved an investigation of claims of unconstitutional stops, searches, arrests and retaliation by the Baltimore Police Department that settled for training and temporary oversight monitoring. The second involved an investigation of claims the Chicago Police Department was involved in unconstitutional conduct that included shooting unarmed citizens, attempted rape and beating witnesses and victims, which also resulted in a push for additional training, community outreach and oversight for implementing new policies.

“These recent resolutions further confirm that disbanding the CCMO is an extreme and inappropriate remedy,” the defendants argue. “This Court should therefore reject the United States’ request to disband the CCMO and instead use a more measured and commonsense approach.”

No date has been announced for Holland’s decision on the issues.

Follow reporter Kevin Jenkins on Twitter, @SpectrumJenkins. Contact him at 435-674-6253.

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