PHOENIX- Arizona's law enforcement certification board voted unanimously Wednesday to revoke the certifications of two police officers accused of practicing polygamy in a community dominated by a church that encourages multiple wives.
The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board acted after an assistant attorney general said the officers' practice of polygamy undermines public trust in law enforcement.
"This can't be tolerated," Assistant Attorney General Diana Stabler said. "The state can't engage in benign neglect."
The two officers were part of the police force of Colorado City in northern Arizona near the border with Utah.
Even though many or most of the residents in Colorado City embrace polygamy, the standing of law enforcement statewide is at stake when questions are raised about law officers turning a blind eye to forced marriages and marriage-like unions involving underage girls, Stabler said.
"You have to take a broad view of the public trust and what community we're talking about," Stabler said.
Specific grounds for the decertifications of Vance Walker Barlow and Samuel L. Roundy included violating the Arizona constitution's ban on polygamy and a Utah board's separately finding that both men engaged in bigamy, a felony in that state.
Neither man immediately returned messages left by The Associated Press, but Roundy told a Utah newspaper in March that polygamists were being unfairly targeted because of their religion.
"We grew up in this culture and we're part of it," Roundy told the Desert Morning News. "It's religious persecution going after polygamy, that's all it is."
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.