Now all they have to do is find someone who wants to be in charge of policing a community filled with former and current polygamous sect members.
The twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., are going to get a new chief marshal. Internal candidates weren’t qualified, Hildale Mayor Donia Jessop said Thursday. So the towns’ monitor and police consultant, who are the ones making the hiring decision, are expected to choose someone who isn’t from the towns.
That could be the biggest change yet for government and police in Hildale and Colorado City, collectively known as Short Creek and home to the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Even though orders from a federal judge designed to make the marshals less biased took effect last year, some residents and observers doubted whether much had changed.
Bill Walker, an attorney who has sued Hildale and Colorado City on behalf of multiple clients who collectively have won millions of dollars in verdicts or settlements from the towns or their insurers, said Thursday he assumed the discrimination from the marshals just went “underground.” He favors not only hiring a chief from outside the community but also terminating the remaining marshals who were found by juries or police regulators to have committed discrimination and replacing them.
“When you get someone from inside the community,” Walker said, “it means they can be disciplined by the church for what they do or don’t do.”
In the past, church leaders approved who was hired to be a marshal and relied on that person to help avoid or obstruct outside law enforcement. Helaman Barlow, a former chief marshal and former FLDS member, has said he ignored plural marriages to underage brides, would obstruct the FBI when agents came to town and helped a church security force conduct surveillance on visitors and people out of favor with the church.
FLDS leaders influenced who was elected to office and served in municipal jobs in the towns, too. That changed last year when Hildale elected Jessop and three City Council members who do not follow FLDS President Warren Jeffs, who is serving a sentence of life plus 20 years in a Texas prison for sexually abusing two girls he married as plural wives.
In recent weeks, the two Hildale council members thought to have been church members resigned. The remaining council members will select their replacements at a meeting Wednesday.
Eleven Hildale employees resigned within weeks of Jessop, the first woman to be mayor in Hildale taking office.
Colorado City, whose town government manages the marshals, terminated Chief Jerry Darger effective March 12. Town Manager David Darger, the chief’s brother, told municipal employees in an email: “The action was taken due to the political environment and opposition which has made it difficult if not impossible for Jerry to succeed.”
Due to a federal judge’s orders designed to make Short Creek free of discrimination, the job of replacing Jerry Darger has fallen to the monitor and consultant appointed by the judge. Jessop said she has had discussions with them, and she expects a chief to be hired within two weeks.
It’s unclear who wants the job of chief marshal. It has been advertised on police websites. One ad says the post offers a salary of $5,700 to $6,700 a month, and the chief will have to live within 35 miles of Short Creek within six months of starting.
The chief will police a community of about 8,000 residents, the ad says, with one sergeant and six deputies. He or she will also have to continue working with the monitor and consultant to introduce new policies and procedures to eliminate bias while protecting a community with some unique characteristics.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people have left the FLDS in the past 14 years, creating religious divisions in the community. Some families are divided, too, creating child custody disputes among fathers and plural wives. Teens within the FLDS often run away.
Jessop said she told the monitor and consultant she wanted a chief with empathy and compassion.
“I’m actually looking forward to someone who’s completely from the outside and doesn’t have a formed opinion already,” Jessop said.
Colorado City’s next municipal election is in November. Nomination filings are due May 30.