There are approximately 400 constables in the state of Tennessee and constables are officers of the Tennessee Judicial System as prescribed by the State Constitution. The constables in Bradley County are sworn and bonded peace officers with full powers of arrest under Tennessee Code Annotated Title 8, Chapter 10. They are charged with keeping the peace and with the enforcement of the laws of the state, county and its cities. While their powers as peace officers are valid statewide, their activities are generally conducted in the county where they are elected.
Tennessee Code requires that to be certified as a constable law enforcement officer with powers of arrest, the constable is required to complete 40 hours of in-service training within 12 months of that officer’s election or appointment. This training does not apply to any constable who was elected before July 1, 1993.
It is recommended that each constable be range-qualified each year by a certified firearms instructor prior to carrying a firearm in an official capacity. Most constables have obtained a Department of Safety Handgun Carry Permit in addition to their constable weapons training.
There are two entities authorized by the state of Tennessee to provide in-service training for constables. They are the Tennessee Constable Council and the Tennessee Constables Association.
Constables often take a variety of courses, in addition to the 40 hours of in-service training required, to learn new skills and to sharpen existing law enforcement skills. Tennessee also requires all persons that operate an emergency vehicle to annually attend and pass an emergency vehicle operation course, or EVOC.
Constables operate as individual officers at no cost to the citizens or governments of the county. Constables provide their own uniforms, vehicles, fuel and equipment and stand ready to aid or assist all citizens and/or agencies within the county. Their mission is to provide additional law enforcement presence in the county and to assist.
Constables are also at the disposal of the fire departments, EMS units and rescue squads in the county as well as any state or federal agency which might have use of their services. In addition to their law enforcement duties, they take some of the burden from taxpayer funded sheriff’s offices across the state by also serving civil process that the Sheriff’s office would have to serve.
As any position in law enforcement, being a constable can be dangerous. In the history of Tennessee at least 19 constables have given their lives in the line of duty. One constable killed in the line of duty in 1972 by gunfire was Constable Thomas Jefferson York, the son of U.S. Army Sergeant Alvin C. York, the famous American hero of World War I and Medal of Honor recipient.
Another famous Tennessee constable that came under fire was Buford Pusser, the famed corruption-fighting lawman from McNairy County. Pusser was the true-life sheriff in the dramatized tale and movie of his life, “Walking Tall.” Pusser was elected constable in McNairy County just prior to being elected sheriff.
Many states like Tennessee still actively use constables as an important part of their law enforcement system.
Services that a Tennessee Constable offers include evictions, home security checks, delivery of legal documents, subpoenas, federal/civil process, proposed parenting plan with child’s custody issues, security escorts, formal & uniform security, summons, business security checks, traffic and garnishments.
The following is the state law concerning constables:
8-10-201 In-service education: The Tennessee Constable Association or the Tennessee Constable Council shall develop and maintain a series of in-service education courses to be offered routinely throughout the year in the various divisions of the state. These courses shall be offered at nights or on weekends so as not to interfere with the constable’s other full-time work. Courses offered shall contain information pertinent to the various aspects of civil and criminal process, firearms certification and other issues relative to the powers and duties of constables. The constables shall pay costs of the courses unless state or local funds are made available. Upon completion of the in-service course, the Tennessee Constable Association or the Tennessee Constable Council will issue a certificate of completion to each officer.
8-10-202 Course time requirements: Each officer shall complete 40 hours of in-service course time within 12 months of that officer's election as constable or within 12 months of July 1, 1993.
8-10-203 Range qualification: Constables must be range-qualified prior to being authorized to carry a firearm. Qualification may be sponsored by the Tennessee Constable Association, the Tennessee Constable Council or by the local law enforcement authority.
8-10-204 Requirements for taking office power of arrest: In all counties where constables are not otherwise prohibited, constables shall be duly elected, trained and qualified. Constables who meet the provisions of this chapter shall take the oath of office, be sworn and bonded, and retain the power of arrest.
8-10-205 Notification of election or appointment: The county election council shall notify the Tennessee Constable Association or the Tennessee Constable Council within 60 days of election of the constable. Where the constable is appointed by the county legislative body, the county clerk shall notify the Tennessee Constable Association or the Tennessee Constable Council within 60 days of appointment of the constable. The council or county clerk shall provide the name of the county constable, the constable's current address and telephone number.
8-10-206 Applicability: a) The provisions of 8-10-201/8-10-205 do not apply to any constable who has served for four years prior to July 1, 1993; and b) The provisions of this part shall not apply to constables whose law enforcement powers have been removed but who have retained the authority to serve lawfully issued process.