E-T Constables Association schedules training for constables in early September
Published 1:14 pm Friday, August 5, 2022
The elected office of constable is the oldest law enforcement position in the United States, according to the Tennessee Constables Association.
The president of the East Tennessee Constables Association Robert Kent Harris estimates more than 50 constables serve in the Tri-Cities area alone — 16 of them serve in Carter County, two each from the eight districts.
Constables have full law enforcement power, meaning they can do anything a regular officer can do.
A constable’s responsibilities normally revolve around serving civil warrants, patrolling school districts, providing church security as well as security at ballgames. They can also assist the sheriff’s office in 911 calls and conduct traffic stops.
“In the world we live in today you need all the extra eyes and help that you can get,” said Harris.
Two bills related to constables were passed in the most recent Tennessee legislative session, both supported and highly praised by Harris and Carter County Constable Ken Potter, who also serves as a training officer for the East Tennessee Constables Association. The first, sponsored by Rep. Bud Hulsey of Sullivan County, provides a method for suspension or removal of constables by criminal court judges under certain circumstances.
According to Constable Potter the bill requires a constable who is under indictment, or who has been charged with a crime, to be placed on administrative leave immediately by order of a judge. Upon conviction the constable may be removed from office by order of the judge or through the process of ouster.
“For the most part, constables are well-respected in their communities and are law abiding citizens, but once in a great while, you get a bad one,” said Potter.
The second bill, sponsored by Rep. Scotty Campbell of Mountain City and Sen. Rusty Crowe of Johnson City, adds the East Tennessee Constables Association to the list of entities eligible to provide in-service education and training for constables.
Harris said this act makes it possible for new constables in counties served by the East Tennessee Constables Association to get their training soon after their election. “We do training the first two weekends in September — four hours each on Thursday and Friday and eight hours on Saturday, and this includes training at a shooting range.
Potter added, “We do about 20 topics each year over a 40-hour course, and one of these topics is active shooter. They can’t carry a gun in their official capacity until they undergo the active shooter training.”
Potter and Harris also helped create the legislation requiring constables to take in the 40 hours of in-service each year. Before that, constables were only required to compete that training within their first year of office.
“We have trained experienced instructors who do the training,” Potter said.
Constables are elected to office through county municipal elections and serve for four-year terms, with no cost to the taxpayer. “They provide their patrol vehicle, uniforms, firearms, everything,” said Harris.
This year’s training will begin on Thursday, Sept. 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the Hamblen County Courthouse, 510 Allison St., in Morristown. Harris said use of force training will be elevated to a higher level this year to stay ahead of pending laws dealing with the use of force.
In addition, he said the constables will be certified on radar moving and stationery. Other courses will include child abuse, domestic violence, officer survival, building searches, search and seizure, and serving civil process. Firearms and range certification are also included in the training.
Any constable in the state will be eligible to attend the training by contacting Harris.
Potter, who is the training officer, said training will be more vital than ever. “Much more focus will be on de-escalation of force. Constables must be trained to deal with whatever comes before them,” he said.
Instructors for this year’s training include Potter, who holds certification from both Department of Safety/Homeland Security and Department of Commerce and Insurance for the State of Tennessee. He is also a constable in the seventh district of Carter County. Other instructors include Edward Tester, Post Certified Sheriff of Johnson County; retired Jerry Stout of Homeland Security, as well as other qualified instructors.
The range dates will be announced during the training and will be conducted in Morristown by a state certified firearms instructor. Other training dates are Friday, Sept. 9, beginning at 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 10, beginning at 9 a.m.; Sept. 22 and 23, beginning at 6:30 p.m., and Saturday, Sept. 24, beginning at 9 a.m.
For information or to enroll, call Harris at (423) 335-3775.
“Looking at the lineup of instructors and the topics being taught, this will be a great training class for all constables,” said Harris.
To become a constable, you must live in the district you are running in, obtain 25 signatures of registered voters within the district, have a high school diploma or GED, and never been convicted of a felony or received dishonorable discharge from the military.
Awards and presentations will be made at the conclusion of the training. At the awards presentation, the family of the late John Couch, a long-serving constable of Washington County, will be given a proclamation by State Senator Rusty Crowe in recognition of his service.