COLORADO CITY - After sending a letter to the polygamist-supporting Mormon sect leader Warren Jeffs, the chief law enforcer with the Colorado City/Hildale Town Marshal's Office has been accused of misconduct.
The long-range implications include the possibility almost all law enforcement in Colorado City will have to be provided by the Mohave County Sheriff's Office.
The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Council has accused Fred Barlow of seeking direction from the federal fugitive Jeffs, refusing to ask questions during a deposition, and refusing to answer questions posed by an investigator for the Arizona Attorney General's Office.
Barlow is the marshal who oversees officers in bordering Colorado City and Hildale, Utah.
Barlow sent a letter in October 2005 to Jeffs in which he refers to the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as "Uncle Warren." It was obtained by federal authorities on Oct. 28, 2005, when the brother of Jeffs, Seth Jeffs, was arrested in Colorado with the letter, money and other supplies suspected to be intended for Warren Jeffs.
It updated Jeffs on professional and personal aspects of Barlow's life while Jeffs was a fugitive.
"I do not know exactly what we have ahead of us, but I do know that I and all of the other officers have expressed our desire to stand with you and the priesthood," Barlow said in the letter.
He explained that the office was facing investigation from the Department of Justice and the decertification of two officers.
"And I know that you have the right to rule in all aspects of my life," Barlow said in the letter.
"I yearn to hear from you."
He closed the letter "Your Servant" before signing his name.
Jeffs is currently in custody in Utah and will stand trial on charges of rape as an accomplice for allegedly forcing a teenage girl to marry an older cousin. He has been the religious leader of the FLDS since 2002, with more than 10,000 members in the area.
POST is using the letter as evidence for misconduct charges, which could cost Barlow his certification to enforce law in Arizona. According to POST Executive Director Tom Hammarstrom, three officers in the area have already had their certification revoked - one for having a felony conviction.
Hammarstrom added the council also has an open case against another law enforcement officer, Preston Barlow. No date has been set yet for an administrative hearing.
The Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council is also conducting its own investigation of the marshal's office.
"We work together and share information," Hammarstrom said. He added the investigations were separate, though.
The Mohave County Sheriff's Office has also been working with the Arizona POST to come up with a contingency plan in case all of the current six law enforcement officers become decertified, according to Sheriff Tom Sheahan.
"If at a point in time there are no more officers, we would take over," Sheahan said.
"Our primary concern would be public safety."
The MCSO currently has four officers stationed in Colorado City. If the county had to take over law enforcement, Sheahan said a total of 10 officers would need to be stationed there.
The Sheriff's Office would need to apply for and receive funding from the county as a permanent solution to pay for the increase in staffing, but Sheahan said there would be officers sent to the area from other parts of the county on their days off as a temporary solution. The officers would be paid overtime, akin to what the county currently does on major holidays in the Lake Havasu area.
He added no officers would be taken from their normal shifts in their normal patrol areas. As for right now, Sheahan said they are just awaiting to see what will happen.