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Discrimination Via Non-Enforcement

And now, for something completely different.

Most civil rights complaints against law enforcement are complaints that the police did too much in their pursuit of suspects. However, this decision from the NInth Circuit involves a civil complaint by USDoJ against two towns for discriminatory enforcement where most of the complaints are for non-enforcement or, in one case, actively helping a fugitive.
Straddling the Utah and Arizona border, the Short Creek Community is a religious settlement composed of the Towns. Most residents are FLDS members and follow the teachings of Warren Jeffs, whom they sustain as a prophet and leader of the Church. Since becoming the head of the Church in 2002, Jeffs has promulgated a strict set of rules for FLDS members, such as prohibitions on: vacations, toys, attendance at public schools, and displays of affection between husbands and wives.
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At trial, the United States argued that FLDS leaders selected the Towns' leaders and members of the Colorado City Marshal's Office (Marshals), which served as the police department for the Towns. The United States offered testimony that the FLDS "ran the [Towns'] government" and that the Towns' government "was a part of the [C]hurch." It also offered evidence demonstrating that FLDS leaders instructed local government officials on how to perform their jobs in a way that advanced the Church's interests. Marshals, for example, ignored violations of the law--such as underage marriage, unlicensed drug distribution, and food stamp fraud--by FLDS members.
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The Marshal's Office also helped [sect leader Warren] Jeffs after he became a fugitive. Less than three years after Jeffs became head of the Church, the United States secured a warrant for his arrest on charges of sexual misconduct with children. The FBI sought the help of the Marshal's Office to locate Jeffs, but the Marshals did not cooperate; instead, they hindered the FBI's investigation and helped Jeffs hide for over a year. The Marshals also provided Jeffs with financial assistance and information on the activities of federal law enforcement to help him evade capture. The Marshals even helped destroy evidence of the crimes for which Jeffs was accused by burglarizing a former FLDS member's business.

Later in the discussion of the allegations, however, there are some claims of discriminatory actions against non-FLDS members of the kind we more commonly see.

The case is United States v. Town of Colorado City, No. 17-16472.

The "equal protection of the laws" guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment is an affirmative obligation to protect people from crime in equal measure. Some of the worst abuses of law enforcement come under the non-enforcement heading. The failure to protect people from the KKK during its reign of terror comes to mind. Simple corruption, where people who pay bribes can prey on others with impunity, might also be considered an equal protection violation.

Failure to protect is a bigger problem than overzealous enforcement. It should get more attention.


Link (this decision) busted

Thanks. It is corrected.

The link now has a " (2)" appended. I haven't seen that at the Ninth before. Maybe it is a revised version.

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