The Early History of Constables
Early records indicate that the first Constables were established by King Alfred of England, in the year 871 A.D. The Constable was the highest Judge in the Military offenses and in questions of chivalry and honor. He was also named by the King to be the supreme arbitrator in tilts, tournaments, and martial displays. On June 15, 1215, the Magna Carta established Judiciaries, Constables, Sheriffs or Baliffs. The Magna Carta was the institution of due process, or the law and jury system.
Constables in Colonial America
The first Constable was appointed in Plymouth Colony in 1632. During that time, the leading official was the Justice of the Peace. The Justice of the Peace, assisted by the Constable, was in charge of the County Court, which was both judiciary and legislative. The Constable enforced the orders of colonial and county officials in both civil and criminal matters.
Constables in Texas
While still a colony of Mexico, Constables and Sheriffs were established in Texas when Stephen F. Austin wrote and proposed codes of criminal regulation. The Mexican Government approved these regulations, and added them to the established elections by precinct for the Constables. In 1876, the Constitution of the State of Texas was adopted. It set forth the elected office of the Constable, thus the present Constables office was established. The Constable term is four (4) years. He/She must be a certified peace officer when elected or within 270 days. If He/she has never been a peace officer they must have at least an Associates Degree before appointed. The Constable appoints their own deputies, who must also be certified peace officers.
What are the Duties?
The Constable and their deputies have all the powers and responsibilities of any peace officer in the State. They may write tickets, make arrests, conduct investigations and file criminal charges. However, they have additional enforcement responsibilities for which standard street police officers are not accountable. The Constable and deputies serve as the Baliff in Justice Court. In addition, they are responsible for serving and executing Civil Process and Civil Court orders. Because civil law is often more technical than criminal law, it requires additional training in specialized schools with an emphasis civil law.
How do Constables Differ From Other Police Officers?
Constables have the same powers as standard police officers, but with the added responsibility of civil law enforcement. Because the civil aspects of their duties generate revenues for the county’s general fund, many Constables’ offices are self -supporting. It is a unique law enforcement agency, as it has the capacity to return funds to the county treasury, thus reducing tax dollars.
Along with their customary duties, Constables are dedicated to public service. They assist other agencies with traffic control during traffic accidents and fires. Constables assist with 911 emergency calls, searches for the elderly and missing children and escort service duties. They provide back-up support to other law enforcement agencies (i.e., Sheriffs Departments, local police, D.P.S. etc.) as needed. Constables are available to serve their community whenever or wherever they are needed.