A Constable is a commissioned Peace Officer, elected by county constituents every four years for a particular area or precinct of that county. A Constable may enforce any criminal and civil laws, motor vehicle violations, and conduct criminal investigations. In addition, Constables have jurisdiction of all documents generated by Justice Courts they are attached to and must execute process of those documents. Constable’s are also required by law to be present during hearing by the Justice of the Peace or have one of their Deputy Constables present as Bailiff.
Constables were the only law enforcement officers specifically designated by the first Texas Constitution and have remained an integral part of the Texas policing landscape.
As diverse as Texas is, with 254 counties, there are literally hundreds of variations (on) how constables are used. They are one of the most flexible, utilitarian types of law enforcement positions.
Texas Constables’ offices vary in size, from one to over 400 employees, and their responsibilities to the community likewise vary depending on the needs of their community.
The duties of a Texas constable generally include providing bailiffs for the justice of the peace court(s) within his precinct and serving process issued there and from any other court. Some Constables offices limit themselves to only these activities but other, more professional offices, provide patrol, investigative, and security services as well.
In addition to being sworn peace officers with the same ability to patrol, make traffic stops or arrests as police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and state troopers, Constables and their deputies also are assigned to keep order in justice of the peace courts and to enforce civil and criminal writs.
Constables maintain the same training and certification requirements as any police officer in the State of Texas. They are certified peace officers with the same enforcement power as other Texas peace officers, as defined by the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 2.12. They often participate actively in criminal investigations and assist other law enforcement agencies as necessary.
In addition to performing traditional law enforcement functions, Constables also serves as bailiff for the justice courts and serve subpoenas and papers necessary to the functioning of both the civil and criminal justice systems.
The Constable also plays an important role in making sure the judgments rendered in civil cases are satisfied. He must keep accounts of the financial transactions of the office and is responsible for property seized or money collected through law enforcement action or by court order.
While the primary duties of the Constable’s office revolve around serving civil process, they may also perform more routine law enforcement functions like traffic enforcement, prisoner transport, traffic control, or assisting in local, county, state, or federal level task forces, depending on the level of involvement of the county. Constables perform the vital role of “force multiplier” to free up Sheriff’s Deputies and municipal Police Officers so they can address enforcement issues specific to their jurisdictions and departmental requirements. Performance of patrol functions by Deputy Constables creates a greater deterrent for crime as well as a safer environment for drivers and pedestrians.
As with all elected county officials, the Constable has ultimate authority over the operations of the office, including the authority to hire and fire personnel and direct their daily activities. The Constable also has authority to determine how to use all other resources allocated to the office during the budget process.