The Constables Office
What is a Constable?
The Office of Constable is mandated by Article 5, Section 18 of the Texas Constitution, which states that in each Justice of the Peace precinct, a Constable shall be elected.
A Constable is a licensed, commissioned peace officer, elected by county constituents every four years for a particular area (Precinct) of that county. Each Constable’s Office is a separate and unique law enforcement agency, independent of all other county departments, elected officials, and law enforcement agencies.
What is a Constable's Authority?
In accordance with the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Constables have the same duties and powers as any other peace officer, such as municipal police and Sheriffs, and may enforce all criminal laws, traffic laws, and conduct criminal investigations. In addition, by statute, Constables must serve all warrants, precepts, and civil process lawfully directed to them.
Therefore, the Constable is the chief process server for the Justice Court. Constables are required by law to be present, or ensure one of their Deputy Constables are present, during hearings held by the Justice of the Peace.
To meet the challenges and demands of taking on the full responsibilities of being a peace officer as well as the added liabilities of processing civil cases, all Texas Constables and Deputy Constables MUST be licensed by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, attend and complete a police academy, fulfill all ongoing continuing education requirements for peace officers, and complete bi-annual training specific to civil process.
What is the History of the Constable?
The Constable is the oldest law enforcement position in the world, first mentioned in France at the beginning of the 5th century, where it was known as the Count of the King's Stables. By the turn of the 6th century, the Constables were the Chief Household Officers and commanded the King’s Armies in the King's absence.
In the year 871 AD, King Alfred of England, declared the Constables to be the highest judge of military offenses and in matters of chivalry and honor. The Constable was also named by the King to be the supreme arbitrator in tilts, tournaments, and martial displays.
Becoming noted peacekeepers under King William "The Conqueror" in 1066, the Constable and their responsibilities were expanded with the adoption of the Magna Carta, which became the pattern for most of the world's constitutions and described Constables for the first time in written law.
What is the History of the Texas Constable?
In Texas on March 5, 1823 Constable Thomas Alley was appointed in Stephen F. Austin's original colony and sworn in by Judge John Tumlinson. Later, another Constable was sworn in by Judge Tumlinson, thus making the two Constables the first law enforcement officers in Texas.
The Constitution of the Republic of Texas (1836) provided for the election in each county of a sheriff and "a sufficient number of constables." During the ten years of the republic's existence, thirty-eight constables were elected in twelve counties, with the largest number (thirteen) in Harrisburg, later Harris County.
Court records indicate that violent crime was rare in the republic, except when horse or cattle thieves entered Texas from Arkansas or Louisiana; most indictments were for non-lethal crimes such as illegal gambling or assaults resulting from fights or scuffles.
Shortly after Texas became a state, an act passed by the legislature specified that the constable should be "the conservator of the peace throughout the county," adding that "it shall be his duty to suppress all riots, routs, affrays, fighting, and unlawful assemblies, and he shall keep the peace, and shall cause all offenders to be arrested, and taken before some justice of the peace."
Constables were the most active law-enforcement officials in many counties during the early statehood of Texas. The beginning of the Civil War saw the constables' role, as well as their number, dwindle dramatically. Some were absorbed into the Confederate Army and by the end of the war, Texas constables were mostly a thing of the past. In an effort to decentralize control over state government, the Texas Constitution of 1876 mandated that constables would once again be elected at a precinct level.