The folks in Fowler are finding themselves in a pickle, after the members of the town's police force abruptly left, leaving them without local protection.

The defections happened within a matter of hours of each other: Webster Hogue, the chief, resigned over the weekend, and the remaining officer quit Wednesday, Otero County Sheriff Shawn Mobley told the La Junta Tribune-Democrat Thursday.

Neither gave notice: they just quit on the spot.

"Until last night I wasn't sure where (Hogue) was planning on going, but I guess that he got a better offer from Bent County Sheriff's Office," said Mobley. "Which left one remaining officer, and then yesterday afternoon I find out that he quit."

Mobley and Undersheriff Matt Wallace met with Fowler's city administrator on Wednesday to discuss ways for the sheriff's office to assist in maintaining the public's safety during the absence of a formal police force.

"Were going to do everything we can as far as covering calls for service there," continued Mobley. "But the challenge for us is that we cover the entire county.

"We've got calls from Cheraw, Swink, Higbee, Fowler and anywhere else in the outlying areas. And so trying to stretch it out has been a challenge for us. We've got a short staff now, we're down one patrol position and we're hoping to fill that in the very near future.

Another level of safety comes from the officers of the Colorado State Patrol, who will respond to assist the OCSO, or on their own if the county isn't available, said Trooper Gary Cutler.

"We've seen this kind of thing before," Cutler told the La Junta Tribune Democrat.

"It's a challenge for us, but the citizens of Fowler deserve at least some sort of police presence out there," said Mobley. "So we're doing everything we can to try and help out until they can hopefully get a new chief and some officers hired."

Local business owners were not comfortable speaking on record about the resignation of the Fowler chief and officer.

"No comment," said a manager of one of the local gas stations. "It's not a good situation, that's all I'll say."

"Fowler isn't in a state of emergency," said Fowler Mayor Nathan Shultz.

The town has a budget for three officers, he said. They'll try to fill those positions as quickly as possible, but the process of hiring a police officer - which includes background checks and psychiatric evaluations - takes time.

Meanwhile, the Fowler Area Watch, a civilian crime watch group not formally affiliated with law enforcement, is holding a community meeting at 6 p.m. tonight.

"Now is probably a good time to remind people to be a good neighbor," said Mobley.

"Help us police the area. If you see something suspicious, please call. People like to post things on Facebook if they see something, but my dispatch doesn't monitor Facebook."

The Otero County Sheriff's Office can be reached at 384-5941 or 9-1-1- in the case of an emergency.

cburney@ljtdmail.com