Some Tennessee counties still have constables

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Since the laws were changed some thirty years ago, not all Tennessee counties still have constables with powers similar to those of law enforcement. But for those counties that still have constables, what does it take to be one?

To be a constable you have to do little more than any other political office.

Those who do forty hours of training each term and are range-qualified yearly have arrest powers, but unlike other law enforcement, they do not have to meet minimum standards to qualify for the office. That's why some counties have eliminated those elected positions, leaving others working toward better training.

It doesn't give you a paycheck, and you buy your own car and gas. That’s the life of a Tennessee constable.

You do get twenty dollars when you serve court papers, and Sevier county constable Billy Seagle has done a lot of that, but he drove more than two hundred miles just Wednesday evening.

Seagle says that's primarily what they do and it helps others.

"We try to serve the civil process for the court to take that off the sheriff's office so they can be out patrolling and doing the things that they need to do."

But a constable also can have arrest powers without passing police minimum standards, psychological tests, and specialized schools.

Blount County Sheriff’ James Berrong says, “A constable can get elected without any of those above mentioned things and have the authority and power that a deputy sheriff have. [sic]"

Sheriff Berrong sought, and received, a private act of the legislature nearly twenty years ago to remove the constable position in Blount County.

"Without having some type of standards you didn't know exactly who was getting elected because not a lot of people ran for that job."

While half the constables in Sevier County do have minimum standards, Seagle says they do more training that the minimum required.

Seagle says, "Every constable in Sevier County goes through a 48 hour school every year."

Constable Seagle has minimum standards from his law enforcement days, and supports minimum standards for constables.

"And I think that would be a good thing for the constables because as time goes on you're going to be getting trained professional constables."

Constable Seagle says there has been a push for minimum standards and law enforcement experience for constables in the state legislature, but at this point he says it has not passed.


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