Constable training bill passes House, now faces Senate challenge

Published 4:55 pm Friday, March 9, 2018

Legislation by two local lawmakers to institute improved training standards cleared a major hurdle this week after it passed in the State House of Representatives.

State Rep. Timothy Hill introduced legislation (HB2141) which would set a minimum number of training hours required each year for elected constables in Tennessee.

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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.

According to Hill, the current state law does not require any ongoing training for constables after they complete the initial 40 required hours.

Under Hill’s bill, 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.

The bill passed the House on Thursday by an overwhelming majority of 91 in favor, one opposed, and one passing on the vote.

“Now it has to pass in the Senate,” Hill said on Friday.

Hill said he feels the legislation will help better prepare constables for the duties of their office. Currently, Hill said, 25 counties in Tennessee have constables who often work alongside law enforcement agencies to serve their community.

“This dovetails into the school security question that is being asked at the federal, state, and local level,” Hill said.

State Sen. Rusty Crowe, who is carrying the Senate version of the bill, agreed that the training requirement could be part of how the state improves responses to incidents such as school shootings. Because constables are elected to serve their local communities, Crowe said they could be among the first people to respond to a school shooting incident.

“Part of that training requirement for the constables will be for active shooter training,” Crowe said, adding that requirement is being added to the legislation by an amendment.

Another change to the bill from how it was originally presented will be a clause that will exempt constables who have more than 20 years of service in the roll from the annual training requirement, according to Crowe.

Crowe will be presenting the bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he said he might have a challenge in getting the bill through.

“A lot of the counties do not have constables, so they don’t see the value in them,” Crowe said. “Carter County has the best constables, and they train constantly.”