County considers abolishing

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 22, 2001

constable position


Staff Writer

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Feb. 22, 2001 10 PM

Pike County Commissioners have taken the first step toward abolishing the office of constable.

Tuesday night, the commission met to discuss items they want to forward to the legislative delegation and voted 3-1-1 to do away with the office of constable in Pike County.

Discussion of the issue began when Chairman Willie Thomas brought up the subject of a petition signed by individuals of the Needmore Community who want to keep the constables.

Commissioner Larry Meeks pointed out some of the signatures were of individuals who are not Pike County residents and one name on the petition is that of a teenager who is not even eligible to vote.

Thomas asked Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas for information on the issue.

Thomas said "the liability is tremendous" if the county is forced to become involved. He also said he has received several phone calls from individuals, one of which was stopped ­ for a traffic violation ­ by a constable.

Meeks said he has been approached by two individuals who ran for the office of constable last year and they want the office abolished.

"I think a majority wants us to do away with them," Meeks said.

"They’re just vigilantes is what they are," he said, referring to the fact constables are not required by law to be certified by Peace Officer Standards and Training.

The Handbook for Alabama County Commissioners states "general law provides for the election of one constable for each election precinct in each county to hold office for a term of four years. Constables are conservators of the peace within their respective counties and they perform executive duties in connection with the local courts. Constables receive compensation in the form of fees for the performance of their various duties and services."

Legislation passed in 1984 allows counties to abolish the office by local legislation.

Many of Alabama’s 67 counties have abolished the office of constable over the years.

According to the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, there are 37 counties which still have constables, meaning 30 have taken action to abolish the office.

According to an Attorney General opinion constables "have arrest powers and the authority to write traffic tickets," however, the Criminal Justice Information Center Commission does not allow constables access to the state computer system "on the basis that constables are not charged with enforcing criminal laws."

Constables are also not authorized to have blue lights and sirens. They must also have permission from the police chief or sheriff in their jurisdiction or the Department of Public Safety to operate blue lights.

After discussion, the chairman asked commissioners what they wanted to do, Commissioner Charlie Harris said, "My pleasure is to get rid of them."

The motion was made by Meeks and seconded by Harris. Both of them, along with Ray Goodson, voted in favor of passing the resolution; Thomas voted against it and Karen Berry abstained from the vote. Commissioner Larry Penn was absent from the meeting.

Passage of the resolution will forward the issue to the Pike County legislative delegation for approval by the Alabama House of Representatives and Senate. The issue will then be put to a vote by residents of Pike County during the next election.

In other business, the commission:

· Approved the advertisement for the county administrator vacancy and set closing for 5 p.m., March 20.

· Approved bids for sheriff department equipment that will be purchased with grant money.