Lawmakers propose new training standard for constables

Published 5:57 pm Friday, February 9, 2018

A pair of local lawmakers are working with area law enforcement professionals to help improve training standards across the state.

State Rep. Timothy Hill and Sen. Rusty Crowe introduced legislation for this term of the Tennessee General Assembly that would set minimum training standards for elected constables across the state.

Constables are elected law enforcement officers who serve their local communities and have the same authority of arrest under state law as do sheriff’s deputies and police officers. Currently, state law requires that each constable complete 40 hours of in-service training within one year of their election to the post.

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“The law does not require ongoing training,” Hill said.

Under the bills sponsored by Hill and Crowe, state law would be changed to require constables to undergo a minimum of 40 hours of in-service training each year that they hold office.

“Often times when we carry these bills, the people it affects don’t like it, but in the case of our constables this is something they are asking for,” Crowe said.

Hill has been working with the Tennessee Constable Association as well as several constables from the region to draft the proposed change to state law.

“They are in favor of it and are doing this voluntarily,” Hill said. “I believe what their intention is, and mine as well, is to get this into code so there is a minimum standard across the state.”

Both Hill and Crowe agree that having a minimum standard of training will help constables perform their duties.

“The more training they get, the more professional they are,” Crowe said. “Our constables, and especially our constables here in our region, are always working to become more professional. I have found our constables here in Northeast Tennessee have always been more professional and better trained than in other parts of the state.”

For many constables, the proposed change in state law is something they are already doing.

“A lot of constables here are already meeting this threshold,” Hill said. “I think it speaks to their dedication because we have so many constables who are already doing this level of training or higher.”

Crowe said both he and Hill are pleased to be able to carry this legislation to help support the constables across the state and to help set minimum standards for the position.

“Constables are one of the oldest professions in law enforcement, if not the oldest, but they sometimes aren’t looked at with the proper respect,” Crowe said. “They really provide a service that sometimes our sheriff’s departments and police departments can’t. They help fill in those gaps in the law enforcement continuum.”

The House version of the legislation (HB2141) has been assigned to the Local Government Subcommittee while the Senate version (SB2054) has been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.