Constables have power of

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 11, 2000

deputies, with no training

When Pike County residents go to the polls in June, some of them will be voting for constables.

Only eight men have qualified to run in the county’s 28 precincts.

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But, before casting a ballot one might want to know what a constable does.

In actuality, a constable has the same powers as a deputy. He can write tickets and make arrests, but doesn’t have to have any special training.

Some Alabama counties use constables to serve civil papers, but Pike County Sheriff’s deputies do that.

Basically, a constable in Pike County is a law enforcement officer with no uniform who can operate on his own. In other words how much or how little he does is up to them.

There is no salary involved, just power.

Some Alabama counties have done away with constables because of problems. There have been horror stories of constables abusing the power given to them by the voting public.

My personal belief is Pike County constables should either be used to serve papers or be eliminated.

Having men or women running around playing cops and robbers is just too risky!

Think about it.

Imagine what could happen if a constable with little or no training wanders into a situation and gets shot or shoots an innocent person.

What happens then?

Law enforcement officers are some of the most important people in our society. The motto "To Protect and Serve" adopted by many departments is taken to heart by most of those wearing a uniform, badge and gun.

I’ve known a lot of law enforcement officers who take that motto seriously and really do view themselves as a public servant. Then, again, there are those ­ some of whom I have met ­ who became officers for the glory and power of having a uniform, badge and the authority to arrest a person.

For the most part, officers are a good breed. And, I’m not just writing that because my family is full of them.

I remember Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner discussions being about crime and criminals.

I’ve heard the funny and the scary stories. I remember my grandmother ­ who was a matron in the Jefferson County Jail and the first woman to reach the rank of lieutenant in that department ­ talk about the women she would see at Tutwiler Prison, who knew her from being incarcerated in Jefferson County. My grandfather was a Birmingham Police Officer during the race riots and was actually injured trying to protect those involved from hurting each other. My uncle has dealt with out-of-control inmates. My father has tricked some of Alabama’s "dumbest criminals."

Outside of my family, I’ve watched from afar as friends risked their lives in standoffs with criminals. I’ve seen the frustration of investigators, who couldn’t get that one much-needed piece of information to make an arrest. I’ve witnessed officers have to notify next of kin when a loved one is killed.

It’s a tough job and I admire those who go through the training to do it.

I guess that’s why I have a problem with constables ­ not the people, but the position.

Beth Lakey is a staff writer for The Messenger. E-mail her at