The chief law enforcer in two Utah-Arizona border towns is accused of misconduct after writing a letter in which he warmly referred to the leader of a polygamous sect as "Uncle Warren" and pledged "our desire to stand with you and the priesthood."
"I am praying for you to be protected and yearn to be with you again," wrote Fred Barlow, who referred to himself as a "servant" to Warren Jeffs.
Jeffs is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which has 10,000 members in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. Barlow is the marshal who oversees officers in the towns.
The letter was written in October 2005 while Jeffs was on the run from criminal charges.
The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board is using the letter as evidence in one of three misconduct charges against Barlow, who could lose his certification. The letter was obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune.
Separately, the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council this week voted to conduct its own probe of the police force, whose officers are accused of being too loyal to Jeffs.
The FLDS is a sect that practices polygamy in marriages determined by its leaders. For nearly 100 years, members have lived a quiet, insular life in Hildale and Colorado City.
Jeffs was on the FBI's most wanted listed when he was arrested near Las Vegas Aug. 28. A Washington County judge next Thursday will decide whether he will stand trial on charges of rape as an accomplice for forcing a teenage girl to marry an older cousin.
In his letter, Barlow pledges allegiance to Jeffs and keeps him informed about personnel.
"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. ... Without the priesthood I am nothing," Barlow wrote.
He told Jeffs that he planned to hire a new officer — "unless you would like us to do something different."
Barlow said the officers have stated "their desire to follow the directives that are placed before us. I feel that I am the weakest one among them, but I want to fill the position that you would have me fill and do the job the way that you would like it done."
Federal authorities obtained the letter on Oct. 28, 2005, when Jeffs' brother, Seth Jeffs, was arrested in Colorado with correspondence, money and other supplies believed to be intended for Warren Jeffs.
The Arizona police board has accused Barlow of seeking direction from Jeffs, a federal fugitive; refusing to ask questions during a deposition; and refusing to answer questions posed by an investigator for the Arizona attorney general.
No date has been set for an administrative hearing.
The Arizona board's compliance manager, Bob Forry, said he doesn't know how much contact Barlow had with Jeffs.
"He was asking for some direction," Forry said. "I guess the question is what direction."
In an interview with Arizona regulators Aug. 10, Barlow said he does not get daily advice from Jeffs, but "we may ask for some advice on some things if we can get it."
After the Utah criminal case is closed, Jeffs faces charges tied to underage marriages in Mohave County, Ariz.