Tennessee Constables Association offering an in-service training program

Published 6:01 pm Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Improving the tools available for elected law enforcement across the state continues to be a goal for one local lawmaker and the Tennessee Constables Association.

Following the passage of a piece of legislation to assist the educational opportunities for constables drafted by State Rep. Timothy Hill, members of the TCA visited the Elizabethton Star Tuesday morning to announce that the constable in-service training program is around the bend.

Ken Potter, a Carter County constable and lead instructor for the course, stated the event is scheduled to start Monday, June 11, at 5:30 p.m. at the Carter County Emergency Rescue Squad, near the Stoney Creek Community. The program is tentatively scheduled to last until June 22 and will allow constables to fulfill a mandatory 40 hours needed by state law to serve in their position.

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The local training program is open to all constables and law enforcement members. The cost to attend is $20 for TCA members and $50 for non-TCA members.

Potter started the constable training program locally in the 1990s during his time with the Carter County Sheriff’s Office and has served as the lead instructor since then.

“We thought by training the constables, they would be able to react on what they need to do,” Potter said. “It has really worked out. We’ve been able to train them each year. It’s been a great working relationship between the constables and other law enforcement agencies.”

Bulking up the resources for constables was one of the key reasons Hill and State Sen. Rusty Crowe introduced the legislation, which was signed by Gov. Bill Haslam two weeks ago, that requires a minimum of 40 hours of training each year for elected Tennessee constables.

“Very few groups are willing to go out of their way to better themselves. It really speaks to everyone involved with the Tennessee Constables Association,” Hill said about supporting the legislation. “It has been across the state, but Northeast Tennessee has really helped lead the way into making sure constables are better trained and stay up to date with laws. They are raising the standards for themselves and this allows constables to be prepared for situations to protect communities, and themselves.”

“The best legislation ideas I’ve had always come from constituents,” Hill continued. “When something is important as the piece as legislation was to the Association, then it becomes important to me. I was impressed by the Association’s desire to do more to better themselves.”

One exception to the bill is that if a constable has served for 20 years or more, they will be exempt from the annual training requirement, but would still be encouraged to take the course, Hill said.

Constables are elected law enforcement officers that volunteer their time and have the same authority to arrest under state law just like a city or county police officer.

Having the in-service in place allows constables to be prepared for any type of situation, said Sullivan County Constable Kent Harris, who serves as Executive Director of the Tennessee Constables Association

Harris commended the efforts of Potter and his work that he brings to each training program.

Constable Harvey Shaffer, a long-serving constable in Carter County, added that having the program available has been important to him during his time serving in the position.

“I’ve been a constable since 1989, and the continuing education of the program is what’s so great,” Shaffer said. “That’s why we wanted to make it mandatory to have 40 hours of in service. The law changes each year. If you don’t attend your training, you won’t be able to keep up with the new laws.”

Potter added that several law enforcement officials are lending their time to the program. Notables that will be offering educational opportunities include Jerry Stout with Homeland Security, local attorney Jim Bowman, former Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris and representation from the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

All current laws will be discussed during the event and studied. Attendees will receive certification at the conclusion of the event.

“For the incoming constables, we encourage them to attend this event to meet their requirement for hours,” Potter added. “This class will be held in June and newly-elected constables will take office in September.”

To register, individuals can either contact a member of the TCA or call Potter at (423) 341-1709.