Maricopa County leaders on Wednesday backed Sheriff Joe Arpaio's decision to pull out of the tiny town of Guadalupe, essentially sending residents there further down the path to being left without a police force.
A 3-1 vote by the Board of Supervisors gave the town an extra six months to decide whether it can work with Arpaio - and all that comes with him - or else find a new police force.
Originally, Guadalupe leaders had only until October to make the decision, after Arpaio told them he wanted out earlier this year. But Wednesday's vote at one of the supervisors' regular twice-monthly meetings extended that deadline to March.
The town and sheriff have been embroiled in a high-profile fight over police tactics ever since dozens of deputies swept through the heavily Hispanic town in April looking for illegal immigrants.
The fight became so vitriolic that it led the town's then-mayor, Rebecca Jimenez, to ask other agencies whether they would be willing to step in and take over law enforcement in the 5,500-person burg. She was in the market for an agency that wouldn't conduct such sweeps.
In turn, Arpaio announced he was so upset at the way he was treated that he would cancel the long-standing contract the agency had with Guadalupe, which was scheduled to expire in 2010.
So far, town leaders have been unable to find another police force willing to take the sheriff's place.
Phoenix, Tempe and the state Department of Public Safety have all said their resources are too thin to take on more work.
Unless Arpaio and Guadalupe can reach some kind of understanding by the March 16 deadline, the town will be without a police force.
On Wednesday, town leaders reacted with hope that some resolution could be reached before then.
"We will talk," said Guadalupe's new mayor, Frank Montiel. "We are confident that this will not go by the wayside. This isn't the end of the relationship."
Montiel became mayor last week when Jimenez was ousted from the post amid the controversy. Though she is still on the Town Council, Jimenez is no longer in the role of negotiating the law enforcement contract.
Jimenez said there was "no justification for canceling this contract" but that it would be up to the new mayor to figure out what to do. "I wish him all the luck in the world," she said.
Arpaio said he would be willing to listen to the new mayor, but the wounds inflicted earlier this year run deeper than just the town's leadership.
He said he wanted full control over police policies or nothing at all. He was unwilling to compromise.
"I think there's a chance to work something out," he said Wednesday, "as long as they know that if I feel it's fit to go in there tomorrow with my hundred deputies and posse, I'm going to do it."
Montiel said he was willing to let Arpaio have his way.