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Marshal can police polygamous town in Utah, not Arizona

First Published      Last Updated Feb 28 2017 07:54 am

Polygamy » The lawman admitted to wrongdoing in the past, but lawyers say the key issue could be allegations of Short Creek marshals’ pro-FLDS bias.

Usually, when people talk about lines that police officers can't cross, it's a figure of speech.

Not so with Taylor Barlow, a marshal for the town of Hildale, Utah, and who would be one for the adjoining town of Colorado City, Ariz., too.

But, because Barlow admitted to several instances of wrongdoing as a teenager, Arizona's police regulators have told him he can't work there. So Barlow's patrols end on the north side of Uzona Avenue — the street that divides the two towns and the two states.

"We've received a letter saying that if Taylor responds to a call in Arizona, he will be impersonating an officer," said Jeff Matura, a Phoenix lawyer who represents Colorado City and the marshals office.

Barlow has become the latest argument over why, or if, a federal judge should disband the marshals office in Hildale and Colorado City, which together are known as Short Creek and is home to the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In March, an Arizona jury found that the towns and the marshals discriminated against people who did not follow or were out of favor with FLDS leaders. Those people were denied city services such as permits, utility connections and police protection, the jury found.

Jurors also determined the marshals had a practice of unreasonably seizing property and making arrests without probable cause. The U.S. Department of Justice, which filed the lawsuit in 2012, has asked Judge H. Russel Holland to disband the marshals office and allow the sheriffs in Washington County, Utah, and Mohave County, Ariz., to take over policing the towns. Holland is expected to rule in March or April.

Matura and the Utah lawyer for the towns last year touted Barlow as an example of how the municipal governments and the marshals office can act in a secular fashion. Unlike the other marshals employed through the decades, Barlow has never been a member of the FLDS and was not handpicked to join the force. Barlow is from Centennial Park, Ariz., another polygamous community adjacent to Short Creek, and was selected from a pool of applicants in a manner approved by a hired police consultant, the towns' lawyers have said.

Barlow completed training at the Utah police academy and the Beehive State certified him in 2016 as a law enforcement officer. Barlow then applied for certification in Arizona. Since he had already graduated from Utah's police academy, Barlow needed to only forward his Utah academy records to the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (POST), pass shooting range and physical fitness tests, and a written exam on Arizona's laws.

But Arizona POST, according to documents filed in the towns' federal civil rights lawsuit in Phoenix, was concerned about some of the things Barlow admitted to during his background checks.

As a juvenile in 2004 at age 14, Barlow said in a recently filed affidavit, he and a friend entered a commercial building and took some items. A guilty conscience, Barlow wrote in his affidavit, later compelled Barlow to turn himself in, and he was referred to juvenile court.

Then, in 2007, some of the people Barlow was walking with, he wrote, took a water truck. He wrote that he never entered the water truck and only followed behind in another vehicle. Arizona POST apparently has referred to the episode as theft of a vehicle.

In 2008, Barlow and a friend obtained marijuana, decided not to smoke it and gave it to another person. Barlow, according to his affidavit, told the Utah academy that the friend exchanged the marijuana for money, though Barlow later learned no money was exchanged. Arizona POST has apparently determined Barlow sold marijuana. Barlow was never convicted of anything to do with the marijuana or the water truck, Matura said.

Utah requires four years to have passed from the time someone participates in a felony crime — even if he or she wasn't convicted of it — before that person can apply to be a police officer. Arizona has no such time restriction. Arizona POST's regulations also forbid applicants who do anything more than experiment with drugs.

And so, on Dec. 20, Arizona POST told Colorado City Chief Marshal Jerry Darger that Barlow did not meet the minimum qualifications to be a peace officer in the Grand Canyon State.

In an email sent to The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday, Jack Lane, executive director of Arizona POST, said Darger opted to withdraw Barlow's application to be certified.

"Had [Darger] not done so, AZPOST would have initiated a case against Mr. Barlow for denial," Lane wrote.

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