FOWLER – The police force in this Lower Arkansas Valley town has abruptly quit, leaving the community of around 1,100 without a dedicated law enforcement unit. Fowler Police Chief Webster Hogue quit via text message over the weekend and the town’s lone remaining officer resigned Wednesday afternoon, according to Mayor Nathan Shultz.
“He held the position for a week or two and then resigned without notice,” Shultz said. Hogue was promoted from patrol officer to Chief of Police following the resignation in November of then-chief Jacob Freidenberger. “Our newly-sworn Chief of Police sent our administrator a text message basically saying he was quitting, then left us without any notice,” Shultz said. “He said he had a better offer in Las Animas,” said Fowler Town Attorney Tony Perko. It’s believed that both Hogue and the other officer accepted positions with the Bent County Sheriff’s Office, now led by Jake Six, who was elected as Sheriff in November and sworn into office on Tuesday.
The Otero County Sheriff’s Office will be in charge of patrolling Fowler while the police department is vacant. “It is going to be challenging because we’re short-staffed as well,” said Otero County Sheriff Shawn Mobley. “We’re going to do everything we can to try to stay on top of things until the town can get a new chief hired, and hopefully some good officers.
“We’re already interviewing a couple of people and the budget allows for a chief and two (officers),” Shultz said. A job posting for the police chief position lists the salary as $41,600. Freidenberger told News 5 in August that patrol officers in Fowler earn approximately $32,000 annually with “no comp time, no overtime, we work our block and get compensated our flat rate, no matter what we work.”
“We did a budget session this previous fall, we really looked, and funds simply aren’t there,” Shultz said about being able to offer more competitive compensation for Fowler police. Mobley says the Otero County Sheriff’s Office will patrol Fowler at no cost to the town due to a lack of any formal agreement between the municipalities. “We’re all kind of trying to share the load as best we can,” Mobley said.