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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A constable is a person holding a particular office, most commonly in law enforcement. The office of constable can vary significantly in different jurisdictions.



Historically, the title comes from the Latin comes stabuli (count of the stables) and originated from the Eastern Roman Empire; originally, the constable was the officer responsible for keeping the horses of a lord or monarch.[1][2] The title was imported to the monarchies of medieval Europe, and in many countries developed into a high military rank and great officer of State (e.g., the Constable of France).

Most constables in modern jurisdictions are law enforcement officers; in the United Kingdom, Commonwealth of Nations and some European countries, a constable is the lowest rank of police officer, while in the United States a constable is generally an elected peace officer with lesser jurisdiction than a sheriff. However, in the Channel Islands a constable is an elected office-holder at the parish level.

Historically, a constable could also be someone in charge of the defence of a castle. Even today, there is a Constable of the Tower of London.

The equivalent position is that of Marshal, which derives from Old High German marah "horse" and schalh "servant",[3] and originally meant "stable keeper"[4], which has a similar etymology.[5]

Historical usage

Medieval Armenia and Georgia

The titles of sparapet and spaspet, derived from the ancient Iranian spahbod, were used to designate the supreme commander of the armed forces in the medieval kingdoms of Armenia and Georgia, respectively.

Byzantine Empire

The position of constable originated from the Byzantine Empire; by the 5th century AD the count of the stable (Latin: comes stabuli, Greek: κόμης τοῦ σταύλου), was responsible for the keeping of horses at the imperial court.[2][6] The West European term "constable" itself was adopted, via the Normans, as konostaulos in the Komnenian and Palaiologan periods, when it became a high military office and dignity.[7]

Byzantine administrative structures were largely adopted by Charlemagne in developing his empire; the position of Constable, along with the similar office of Marshal, spread throughout the emerging states of Western Europe during this period.[1] In most medieval nations, the constable was the highest-ranking officer of the army, and was responsible for the overseeing of martial law.[8]


The Constable of France (Connétable de France), under the French monarchy, was the First Officer of the Crown of France and was originally responsible for commanding the army. His symbol of office was a sword in a sheath of royal blue.[8] Some constables were prominent military commanders in the medieval period, such as Bertrand du Guesclin who served from 1370 to 1380.

United Kingdom

The office of the constable was introduced in England following the Norman Conquest of 1066 and was responsible for the keeping and maintenance of the king's armaments and those of the villages as a measure of protecting individual settlements throughout the country.[9]

The office of Lord High Constable, one of the Great Officers of State, was established in England and Scotland during the reign of King Stephen (1135-1154) and was responsible for the command of the army. The term was also used at the local level within the feudal system however, describing an officer appointed to keep order.[10] One of the first descriptions of the legal role of a constable comes from Bracton, a jurist writing between 1220 and 1250:[11]

In whatever way they come and on whatever day, it is the duty of the constable to enroll everything in order, for he has record as to the things he sees; but he cannot judge, because there is no judgment at the Tower, since there the third element of a judicial proceeding is lacking, namely a judge and jurisdiction. He has record as to matters of fact, not matters of judgment and law.[12]

In Bracton's time, anyone seeing a "misdeed" was empowered to make an arrest, whether or not they were a constable. The role of the constable in Bracton's description was as the "eyes and ears" of the court, finding evidence and recording facts on which judges could make a ruling. By extension, the constable was also the "strong arm" of the court (i.e., of the common law), marking the basic role of the constable that continues into the present-day.[13]

In 1285, King Edward I of England passed the Statute of Winchester, which "constituted two constables in every hundred to prevent defaults in towns and highways".[14] There are records of parish constables by the 17th century in the county records of Buckinghamshire; traditionally they were elected by the parishioners, but from 1617 onwards were typically appointed by justices of the peace in each county.[14]

The system of policing by unpaid parish constables continued in England until the 19th century; in the London metropolitan area it was ended by the creation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829,[15] and outside London by the County Police Act 1839, which allowed counties to establish full-time professional police forces. However, the term "constable" was still used by officers of the new police forces, and most outside London were headed by a chief constable.[16][17] This system is still used today.

Other European nations

The position of hereditary constable persists in some current or former monarchies of Europe. The position of Lord High Constable of Scotland is hereditary in the family of the Earl of Erroll. There is also a hereditary constable of Navarre in Spain; this position is presently held by the Duchess of Alba.[8]

Historically, many other hereditary constables existed as officers of state in former monarchies. Examples are the Constable of Castile (Condestable de Castilla) and the Constable of Portugal (Condestável do Reino).

Modern usage by country


In the Danish armed forces the ranks "Konstabel" and "Overkonstabel" are used for professional enlisted soldiers, sailors and airmen. The rank is more or less equal to a Private (rank) or Private 1st class (rank), but higher than the rank "menig" which literally translates into "private" and applies to a drafted soldier only.


In the Finnish Police, the lowest rank of police officer is called nuorempi konstaapeli, translated into English as (Junior) Constable.[18] The next rank is vanhempi konstaapeli or Senior Constable. The next highest rank (equivalent to a Police Sergeant in the English-speaking world) is ylikonstaapeli (yli- "leading"), literally "Over-Constable".[19]

Hong Kong

Hong Kong Police have two ranks for constables:

  • Senior Constable - lead officer in a beat patrol; SC wear a single chevron on their arm
  • Constable - officer in a beat patrol; PC wear no insignia other than the officer number.


Police Constable is the lowest police rank in India. Police being a state subject in India under each state government, recruits police constables in each state and union territory of India individually. Police Constable has no insignia except the khaki uniform. All senior officers above the rank of Inspector are Indian Police Service officers appointed through Civil Services Exam are appointed in each state and union territory act as law and order governing heads in the country. Police Constables below the rank of Inspector of Police are distinct from Indian Police Service.[20]

Tamil Nadu

In Tamil, constables are also called as 'Yettu' ஏட்டு. Actually, ஏட்டு was indicating 'Head Constable' but lot of people got it synonymous with constable itself.


In the Norwegian National Police Service the rank "konstabel" was until 2003 the lowest rank in the police, the next ranks being "overkonstabel", "betjent", "førstebetjent" and "overbetjent", all with the unhyphenated prefix "politi-". All higher ranks higher than "politioverbetjent" are commissioned ranks. The Norwegian Police Service have an integrated prosecution service in which the Police lawyers ranks require the law degree "juris candidatus". You do not need a law degree in the other ranks, all the way up to Chief of Police.

The "konstabel" and "overkonstabel" were replaced with "betjent I" and "betjent II" and "betjent" are now "betjent III".

The fire brigades (all municipal) still use "konstabel" as in "brannkonstabel" (fire-constable).

United Kingdom and the Commonwealth

An epaulette showing an officer's divisional code (DF) and individual number.

Within the British Police, Constable is the starting rank in all police forces. All police officers hold the office of a Constable. Upon being sworn in, each officer starts at the rank of Constable and is required to undergo a two year probationary period. Upon successful completion, Constables can remain at their current rank, specialise in criminal investigations, or apply for promotion to Sergeant, the first supervisory rank. Constables wear an epaulette attached to the uniform, displaying their personal identification number. Within Greater London's Metropolitan Police, all Constables and Sergeants display a divisional call sign, as well as an individual number.

The rank of Detective Constable (DC) is not senior to that of a uniformed Constable, the 'detective' prefix identifies the officer as being part of CID or other investigative unit.

A new probationary Constable is paid an annual salary of £22,000, with this rising to £24,000 after training, reaching a ceiling level of £39,000.[21]

Head Constable is the title for a police sergeant in some Commonwealth police forces. It was also previously the title for a head of a police force, until it was changed to Chief Constable.


In Australia, as in the United Kingdom, Constable is the lowest rank in most police services.

Senior Constable can sometimes mean the head of the police force in a small area, but this is not the case in the UK. In Australia it generally refers to a police officer of the rank above constable. The New South Wales Police Force has three grades of Senior Constable, namely Senior Constable (2 chevrons), Incremental Senior Constable (two chevrons and a bar) and Leading Senior Constable (2 chevrons and two bars). However Leading Senior Constable is not a rank per se, rather it is a temporary "training" position not senior to Incremental Senior Constable.

Within Victoria Police, a Senior Constable is the rank above a Constable while above a Senior Constable is a Leading Senior Constable. When first introduced into Victoria Police, the Leading Senior Constable was a classification not a rank, somewhat like "detective". Leading Senior Constables were appointed to specifically to assist in the training and mentoring of more junior members. The last round of wage negotiations however saw Leading Senior Constable become a rank in its own right, one that a lot of members will pass on their way from Constable to Sergeant though it's not strictly necessary and is permissible to be promoted to Sergeant direct from Senior Constable. The general form of address for both Senior Constable or Leading Senior Constable is "Senior" and this is acceptable even in courts.


In Canada, as in the United Kingdom, Constable (translated to Canadian French as Gendarme[22]) is the lowest rank in most police services, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.[23]

Additional ranks with in this rank include:

  • 1st Class Constable
  • 2nd Class Constable - junior rank
  • Detective Constable - senior rank

In addition, the chief officers of some municipal police services in Canada, notably Vancouver Police Department, carry the title of Chief Constable.[24] Provincial Civil Constables deal with matters of a civil nature.

Channel Islands

In Jersey and Guernsey, the elected heads of the Parishes are titled "constables" (connétables in French). The constables are entitled each to carry a silver-tipped baton of office.

In Jersey, each parish elects a constable for a three year mandate to run the parish and also represent the parish in the legislature, the States of Jersey. The constable presides over the Roads Committee, the Conseil Paroissial (except St. Helier) and Parish Assemblies. The twelve constables also collectively sit as the Comité des Connétables. The constable is the titular head of the Honorary Police. With the Roads Inspectors, Roads Committee and other officers, the constable of each parish also carries out the visites du branchage twice a year.

In Guernsey, each parish elects two constables, the senior constable and the junior constable. Persons elected generally serve a year as junior and then senior constable. The senior constable presides over the Douzaine that runs the parish. The constables are responsible for enforcing the brancage (summer hedge-cutting) and also have the power to declare any parishioner insane.

United States

In the United States, there is no consistent use of the office of constable across the states, and use may vary even within a state. A constable may merely be an official responsible for service of process: such as summonses and subpoenas for people to appear in court in criminal and/or civil matters. Or, they may be fully empowered law enforcement officers. They may also have additional specialized duties unique to the office. In some states, a constable may be appointed by the judge of the court which he or she serves; in others the constable is an elected or appointed position at the village, precinct or township level of local government.

The office developed from its British counterpart during the colonial period. Prior to the modernization of law enforcement which took place in the middle 19th century, local law enforcement was performed by constables and watchmen.[25] Constables were appointed or elected at the local level for specific terms and, like their UK counterparts the Parish Constable, were not paid and did not wear a uniform. However, they were often paid a fee by the courts for each writ served and warrant executed. Following the example of the British Metropolitan Police established in 1829, the states gradually enacted laws to permit municipalities to establish police departments. This differed from the UK in that the old system was not uniformly abolished in every state. Often the enacting legislation of the state conferred a police officer with the powers of a constable, the most important of these powers being the common law power of arrest. Police and constables exist concurrently in many jurisdictions. Perhaps because of this, the title "constable" is not used for police of any rank. The lowest rank in a police organization would be officer, deputy, patrolman, trooper, and historically, private, depending on the particular organization.

In many states, constables do not conduct patrols or preventive policing activities. In such states the office is relatively obscure to its citizens.

A constable may be assisted by deputy constables as sworn officers or constable's officers as civil staff, usually as process servers. In some states, villages or towns, an office with similar duties is marshal.


In Alabama, a constable is traditionally elected in each precinct, a subdivision of a county. Constables are peace officers and have full powers of arrest, stop and search within their county.[26][27][28] They are generally responsible for serving warrants and acting as process servers, as well as patrolling the streets and providing security for civic events. They are not funded from general tax revenues; instead, constables' fees are paid by the criminals they arrest.[29]

In Mobile County, local attempts to require all constables to complete law enforcement training, except for those currently in office who would be grandfathered was ruled unconstitutional, though Alabama Constitutional authority to do so has so far been withheld.[30][31]


In Alaska, a constable is an appointed official with limited police powers. The military police arm of the Alaska State Militia, a voluntary state defense force, is designated as the constable force of the State. This agency is empowered to act in a police capacity when called into service by the Governor. Some official missions the constables have officially performed include port security after 9-11, disaster relief, Alaska Pipeline patrols. They were put on initial alert to deploy to Bethel AK in 2007 when 9 of the 11 officers of the city's police department resigned in protest over a pay and benefits dispute with city officials. They were not ultimately needed for that mission and were never deployed. Unlike many states, where militias are voluntary and non-state affiliated, even to the point of being derided by many military and law enforcement officials, the AK State Militia is state-recognized under the state's authority to have a state-exclusive militia or guard, in addition to the National Guard of the Army and Air Force. Alaska also has a naval militia composed of reserve US Marine Corps and Navy personnel, who serve as needed, but not in conflict with their federal military reserve duties. The AK constables receive police training from the Alaska Department of public safety and most of the constables of the militia are former, retired or part-time law enforcement officers or correctional officers. They act in an official police capacity only when called into service by the State of Alaska, which has a broad statute governing citizen's arrests, which is why AK has unarmed Viullage Public Safety Officers (VPSO's) all of whom are fully academy-trained, employed by local tribal non-profit corporations and are deputized by the COmmissioner of Public Safety to make misdemeanor non-traffic arrests and charge for violations. Other similar officers are Tribal Police Officers (TPO's) of local tribal communities and Village Police Officers (VPO's) all of whom receive limited training. This is due to the scarce availability of law enforcement personnel in remote areas of the vast state.


In Arizona, a constable is an elected officer of the county for the Justice of the Peace Court and must live in the precinct to which they are elected. The constable serves a four year term and has similar powers and duties to sheriffs.

In Arizona law, the authority of constables is defined by Arizona Revised Statutes Title 22, Section 131. Constables have the same powers as sheriffs, but their primary responsibility is the service of process for the Justice of the Peace courts, serving summons subpoenas, and perform orders, injunctions, and writs.[32] Constables must undergo training, and their expenses are paid by the county board of supervisors.[33] Constables receive a salary from their respective counties based on the number of registered voters who reside in their precinct. Constables are peace officers but in Arizona do not regularly perform police functions such as patrol and criminal investigations. Although Constables do not regularly perform police functions, some Constables and Deputy Constables are certified officers by this state and take enforcement action when necessary.


In Arkansas, a constable is an elected office at the township level, although Constables are considered county officers.[34] The office of Constable, which is a partisan office, is guaranteed by the 1874 Constitution of Arkansas, which provides for the election of a constable in each township for a two-year term.[35] Constables are peace officers with full police powers.


Historically, constables in California were attached to the justice courts, the lowest tier of the state court system (whereas sheriffs were attached to the county superior courts, and marshals to the municipal courts). When the state courts were unified in 2000, with the superior court fulfilling all judicial functions, the need for the position of constable was eliminated.[36] The few constables that remained on duty when the state courts were reorganized in 2000, even in remote regions of the state, were eventually absorbed into county marshal or sheriff agencies.

Constables were attached to the former justice courts with populations of less than 40,000 in the judicial district, and were either elected by popular vote or appointed by the presiding judge of the court. Constables had full police powers by state law and carried out occasional to frequent patrol work in addition to their civil court process or arrest warrant serving duties.


There are two types of constables in Connecticut.

Special Constables are appointed by Towns. In general, they are appointed to serve as police officers and expected to have or complete the requirements of the Police Officer Standards and Training Council in order to do so. Special Constables normally work under the supervision of a Resident State Trooper contracted by the town (a requirement of the Connecticut State Police if the town wishes their constables to be dispatched by the State Police or have access to the radio and computer system of the State Police). The system of Resident State Trooper and Constables is used by many medium sized towns as a cost effective way of providing increased police patrols while the State Police retain primary responsibility to provide additional levels of supervision, dispatch, Detective, and other specialized services.

Constables who are elected officials are generally limited to serving civil process within the town they are elected by. Elections are held every two years, except communities which by local ordinance or charter have set the term of office at four years. While a small number of towns will also allow the constables to perform road traffic control and event security functions, most strictly prohibit their constables from acting in any official capacity on behalf of the Town. The authority to act as a law enforcement officer by nature of their office was removed in 1984, at which time they became subject to the Police Officer Standards and Training Council requirements. In 1984 these requirements were for 480 hours of training, which could be completed in 120 hour long "blocks" which were offered as part-time evening classes. With completion of each block came expansion of the types of law enforcement the officer could perform. While it was never common after 1984 to have elected Constables with law enforcement powers, there were a few who did complete certification. As of 2007, POST requirements of 680 hours of training provided on a full-time basis for new officers, followed by 400 hours of training provided by a certified Field Training Officer make completing the requirements to be a law enforcement officer impractical for elected Constables.

Historically, Constables had been the key office for providing law enforcement in rural Connecticut. Connecticut never developed a strong institution of County Sheriffs providing general police services. From colonial times through the 1940s, Town Constables would work with two other Town officials—the Investigating Grand Juror and Prosecuting Grand Juror—in the initial handling of criminal investigations, arrests, and the "binding over" of serious crimes from the Town's Justice Court to a higher court. A series of reforms in regulations, statutes, and the state Constitution in the 1950s and 1960s removed the involvement of towns in these matters. In towns without a local police chief, investigations became the exclusive responsibility of the Connecticut State Police, while State Prosecutors took over the prosecution of cases, and the court system was flattened by the elimination of courts with criminal venue below the level of the Superior Court.


Transplanted from England to Delaware in the early colonial period, the constable's main responsibilities were keeping the peace, serving the courts, and executing court orders and process. Under the Duke of York's government the constable was elected from one of four overseers of the town or parish. He had the responsibility to pursue and apprehend offenders and bring them before the justice of the peace, whip, or punish offenders by order of the court, take bail for a person arrested, help to settle estates, and keep proper accounts of fines collected. Legislation relating to constables does not appear in the Delaware Laws until 1770. This act required constables at the end of their terms to return the names of three freeholders to the Court of General Sessions, who then appointed one to serve the next year. At least one constable was appointed for each hundred, and appointees had to be residents of the hundred in which they served. After 1832 the Levy Court of each county appointed the constables, although the Governor could also fill appointments if Levy Court was in recess. The constable had a number of duties, many of which continue today. He executed all orders, warrants, and other process directed by any court, judge, or justice of the peace; ensured that the peace of the State be kept; arrested all persons committing riot, murder, theft, or breach of the peace, and carried them before a justice of the peace; attended elections to ensure that the peace be kept; and enforced the laws of the State.[37]

(1) Justice of the Peace court constables are appointed by the Chief Magistrate. The constables duties include execution of court orders, writs and warrants, serving summonses and subpoenas, collecting debts and fines, and providing courtroom security.[38]

(2) Any non-profit corporation, civic association, or governmental entity which has buildings and grounds open to the public may request for the appointment of constables to serve as law enforcement officers in order to protect life and property. The Board of Examiners shall appoint and commission such numbers of constables as it deems necessary to preserve the peace and good order of the State. To be approved by the Board of Examiners, a constable must meet the minimum standards established by the Council on Police Training. The constable shall exercise the same powers as police officers while in the performance of the lawful duties of their employment.[39]

(3) Code enforcement constables are appointed by any county or municipal Chief Executive with limited authority to enforce only those ordinances pertaining to building, housing, sanitation, or public health codes. The Delaware SPCA may appoint animal control constables to enforce dog control ordinances and animal cruelty law [40]


In Georgia, constables are court officers whose powers and duties are: (1) To attend regularly all sessions of magistrate court; (2) To pay promptly over money collected by them to the magistrate court; (3) To execute and return all warrants, summonses, executions, and other processes directed to them by the magistrate court; and (4) To perform such other duties as are required of them by law or as necessarily appertain to their offices. [41]


The office of constable was first established in Idaho in 1887; constables originally attended the Justice of the Peace courts and were officers of a precinct.[42] Although the Idaho Statutes still provide for the appointment of election constables to keep order during elections (Title 34, Chapter 11)[43] and define constables as peace officers,[44] the position was effectively eliminated in 1970, when the Idaho Legislature's Election Reform Act removed all provisions for the appointment of constables. As such, there are no longer any constables serving in Idaho.[42]


In Kentucky, constables are elected from each magistrate district in the state. There are between three and eight magistrate districts in each county. Under Section 106 of the Kentucky Constitution, constables have the same countywide jurisdiction as the county sheriff.[45]

Prior to the 1970s, the main function of the constables was to provide court service and security to the Justice of the Peace courts. However, since these have been eliminated by judicial reform, the office of constable now has few real functions. Constables still have the power of arrest and to execute warrants, subpoenas, summonses and other court documents, and are required to execute any court process given to them. On the approval of the Fiscal Court (the legislature of the county) they may equip their vehicles with oscillating blue lights and sirens.[45]

Most constables in Kentucky are not paid a salary, but are paid fees for services rendered. However, state law provides for payment of an annual salary of $9,600 to constables in counties with a population of over 250,000; as of the 2000 U.S. Census, this only applies in Louisville Metro/Jefferson County and the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. The payment has become a point of controversy, since constables in Kentucky have few actual duties.[45] The state has authorized a salary of up to $9,600 a year, but the Louisville Metro Council cut it to $100 a month, plus expenses.

Anyone standing for election as a Constable must be at least 24 years of age, a resident of Kentucky for at least 2 years, and a resident of the county and district for at least a year prior to election.[45] Since Constables are Constitutional peace officers they are exempt from attending the mandatory Department of Criminal Justice Training academy, although they may choose to do so. Sheriffs, Coroners, and Jailers are also exempted law enforcement officers. The Kentucky Constables Association is affiliated with the National Constables Association.


Constables are elected or appointed by towns and cities. They have statutory powers of arrest for certain offences connected to gambling, cruelty to animals, prostitution, defiling water supplies, restricting entry to medical facilities, etc. Constables can and usually do serve civil process, and also enforce capias arrest warrants.

The jurisdiction of Constables in Massachusetts is in most cases limited to the cities and towns in which they are appointed or elected, with very limited exceptions.


Constables have all of the powers and duties of police officers once they have completed training required by the state.


Upon gaining statehood, constables continued to be appointed at the county level as had been done when Michigan was a territory. The Constitution of 1850, however, required that each township elect at least one but not more than four constables. With few exceptions cities also elected constables by ward. In addition to serving the justice courts of their county, "constables have always been peace officers ... in the territory of their constituents." However their role was vastly altered upon adoption of the Constitution of 1963 when their office was deleted as was the office of justice of the peace. They were not named as officers of the new District Court. And by the end of the 1970s their election was no longer statutorily mandated. Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) certification became required if they were to perform general peace officer duties. As of 2007 there are very few elected city constables and less than 10% of Michigan's 1242 townships continue to elect constables....


In Mississippi, constables are law enforcement officers elected from single-ember districts in each county. Mississippi law provides s with fewer than 35,001 people, to a maximum of five districts in counties with more than 150,000 people.

By law, constables keep and preserve the peace within the county; advise justice court judges or other officers of all riots, routs, unlawful assemblies, and violations of the penal laws; execute and return all processes directed to them by any county, chancery or circuit court (not just the Justice Courts); and attend the justices' courts of their districts.

All counties are required to provide their constables with at least two complete uniforms, some type of motor vehicle identification which clearly indicates that the motor vehicle is being used by a constable in his official capacity, and a blue flashing light for use on official duty. Other than standard fees for attending court, serving processes, etc., state law does not otherwise require counties to pay or otherwise compensate constables for their jobs.

Mississippi code Title 19 Chapter 19 defines the roles, powers, and duties of constables.[46]

The Mississippi Constables Association maintains a website at


The constable is an elected peace officer. They are primarily process servers; the Nevada statutes define their responsibilities and fees.

New Hampshire

Constables are elected peace officers. They have broad law enforcement powers per county.

New Jersey

A constable is considered a "peace officer" under NJ statutes. Modern-day New Jersey police officers inherit their authority from the constable. Constables may exercise their functions and perform their duties anywhere in the county wherein the appointing municipality is located. Constables are appointed by their city government (city council) via the Clerk's Office and their office term is determined by the municipal government body. They answer to the city council or police chief via monthly activity reports. There seems to be some confusion as to whether they should be identified as municipal, town, city or county constables.

Their powers are mainly focused on the enforcement of civil law although state legislature grants them the power to also enforce criminal and motor vehicle laws.[47] Currently, there is legislation pending approval which will require all current and future NJ constables to undergo police training within six months of appointment.[48]

New York

Constables serve at the pleasure of the local towns and villages, usually in a civil aspect for the courts. However, constables are considered law enforcement officers under New York State law. Their powers can be limited by each jurisdiction.

Constables are considered peace officers (NY Criminal Procedure Section 2.10) and have arrest powers within their jurisdiction while on duty (section 2.20) and must complete peace officer training as approved by the NY Division of Criminal Justice Services. see

There are restrictions on whether appointed constables can have peace officer powers based on the whether the municipality is a town or village and the number of residents. If a constable is not appointed as a constable with peace officer powers, they can only serve civil process?


The appointment of constables is authorized by the Ohio Revised Code, which defines several roles for them. Constables serve as police officers of some small towns and townships, or as officers of some minor courts. A "special constable" may also be appointed by a municipal court judge for a renewable one-year term upon application by any three "freeholders" (landowners) of the county, who are then responsible for paying the special constable.

Duly-sworn Ohio constables are considered "peace officers" under Ohio law, as are sheriffs, municipal police officers, state park rangers, Highway Patrol troopers, etc., and have full law-enforcement authority within their jurisdictions (The Ohio Administrative Code defines a township constables jurisdiction as statewide). With some exceptions, constables must post bonds and undergo police training. They are required to serve court papers when so ordered, and to apprehend and bring to justice any lawbreakers or fugitives, suppress riots or unlawful assemblies, enforce state law and generally keep the peace.

It has been suggested that the office is redundant and should be eliminated; a proposal was mounted to give counties the option to eliminate the office of constable where it is no longer required.[49]


Constables in Pennsylvania are elected Peace Officers.

Constables in Pennsylvania are elected and serve six-year terms. They are Peace Officers by virtue of the office they hold. Upon completion of Act 44 certification and training, they may also serve as the law-enforcement arm of the court. Constables primarily serve the District Courts but may also assist in serving the Common Pleas Court, when requested by the sheriff.

As public officials, constables are required to file an annual Statement of Financial Interests with the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission.

Each constable may, with approval of the President Judge, appoint deputies to work under his authority. Each deputy is given the same authority as the constable himself, but serves at the pleasure of the elected constable.

The duty of the constable is to uphold the law fairly and firmly: to pursue and bring to justice those who break the law; to keep the peace; to protect, help and reassure the community: and to be seen to do all this with integrity, common sense and sound judgment.

Duties of a Constable

Constables are primarily charged by Pennsylvania statute with maintaining order at election polls and ensuring that no qualified elector is obstructed from voting. Constables are the only peace officers permitted at the polls on election day.

What is a Constable? Under Pennsylvania Law, Constables are Public Officers, elected or appointed to their position in accordance with the laws of elections.

A Constable is a sworn Law Enforcement/Peace Officer that can arrest for felony crimes and breaches of the peace committed in his presence, or by warrant anywhere in the Commonwealth.

A Constable is also an officer empowered to carry out the business of the statewide district court system, by serving warrants of arrest, mental health warrants, transporting prisoners, service of summons, complaints and subpoenas, and enforcing protection from abuse orders as well as orders of eviction and judgement levies.

Constables are also charged with maintaining order at the election polls and ensuring that no qualified elector is obstructed from voting, Constables are the only Law Enforcement Officials permitted at the polls on election day.

While Constables primarily serve the Courts, they belong to the executive branch of government.

Constables are elected at the municipal level, however State law governs Constables and they have statewide authority, thus the title became "State Constable".

Constables are empowered to enforce both criminal and civil laws, Police Officers are empowered to enforce criminal and traffic laws, Sheriffs are the chief law enforcement officer of the County and are empowered to enforce criminal, civil and traffic laws.

Deputy Constables Each constable may, with approval of the President Judge in the county the constable is elected in, appoint deputies to work under his authority. Each deputy is given the same authority as the constable himself, but serves at the pleasure of the elected constable

Rhode Island

It is noted in the Rhode Island Constable Application that constables are not permitted to carry guns during the commission of their duties. One can obtain the official application at Also one should study the complete constable manual for the written examination given after training.

South Carolina

Constables are appointed by the Governor of South Carolina and are generally used to assist the police in any particular jurisdiction. They mainly have arrest authorities while they are escorted by police in that jurisdiction. They can act with full police powers in instances of emergencies when police are not immediately available and when a threat of life is present. Any handguns they carry must be concealed unless they are in a state approved uniform. South Carolina State Constable Group 1 can be uniformed police officer or a plain clothes investigator for the state with statewide jursdiction. Agencies that have a law enforcement division or services (i.e. SCDC investigators, SC Dept. of Mental Health Public Safety, USCPD, SCDHEC, state colleges, state universities) are commissioned constables through SLED (State Law Enforcement Division) South Carolina State Constable Group 2 is a retired police officer in good standing that can receive a State Constable Commission to continue to have authority and carry a weapon as set forth by SLED for State Constables. South Carolina State Constable Alliance


Constable is an elected position with full power of arrest and is a state peace officer. The Tennessee State Constitution was amended in 1978 so as not to require counties to have this office; prior to this point, it was mandatory to elect constables in each county. Subsequent statutory law has allowed its continuance in certain counties, with the stipulation that there be no more than half as many constables in a county as there are county commissioners in that county, except in counties where the general law provides for an exception by county population brackets. Constables are elected to four year terms in August of the years coincident with presidential elections; unexpired terms are filled by special election, but such special election must be held coincidentally with another, scheduled election. In some counties, constable is a partisan office; in others all candidates run as independents.


See article: Texas Constable

The Texas Constitution of 1956 (Article 5, Section 18) provides for the election of a constable in each precinct of a county, and counties may have between four and eight precincts each depending on their population. Currently, the term of office for Texas constables is four years. However, when vacancies arise, the commissioners court of the respective county has the authority to appoint a replacement to serve out the remaining term.

In Texas, constables and their deputies are fully empowered police officers with county-wide jurisdiction and thus, may legally exercise their authority in any precinct within their county;[50] however, some constables' offices limit themselves to providing law enforcement services only to their respective precinct, except in the case of serving civil and criminal process. Constables and their deputies may serve civil process in any precinct in their county and any contiguous county and can serve warrants anywhere in the state.

The duties of a Texas constable generally include providing bailiffs for the justice of the peace court(s) within his precinct and serving process issued therefrom and from any other court. Moreover, some constables' offices limit themselves to only these activities but others provide patrol, investigative, and security services as well.

In 2000, there were 2,630 full-time deputies and 418 reserve deputies working for the 760 constables' offices in Texas. Of this number, 35% were primarily assigned to patrol, 33% to serving process, 12% to court security, and 7% to criminal investigations. The Harris County Precinct 4 and 5 Constables' Offices are the largest constables' offices in Texas with over 300 deputies each.[51]


Utah Constables are appointed by municipalities whose courts they serve or elected to a precinct to serve the justice of the peace (JP) court. They are fully empowered peace officers but are not tasked with "General Law Enforcement Duties." They must go through the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification, and be at minimum POST Category II peace officers. Like sheriffs they may appoint deputies. They serve process, provide court security (Bailiff duties), transport prisoners, seize property, enforce writs of all types and effect service of arrest warrants and may make probable cause arrests.


Constables are generally elected by the town. They are charged with service of process; the destruction of unlicensed or dangerous dogs or wolf-hybrids, and of injured deer; removal of disorderly people from town meetings; collection of taxes, when no tax collector is elected; and other duties. Constables have full law enforcement authority unless the town votes to either remove the authority or require training before such authority is exercised. Cities and villages may also have constables. Their duties and method of selection are governed by the corporation's charter.

Effective July 1, 2010 Town Clerks must certify constables are duly elected or appointed and the town has not voted to limit the constable’s authority to engage in enforcement activities.

Effective July 1, 2010 Constables must certify they have successfully completed a basic training course and will complete the required annual in-service training.


Constables are responsible for enforcing Town ordinances and assisting with animal control.

West Virginia

David F. Green of Davy, West Virginia was the last person to hold the elected office of Constable in West Virginia.

See also


  1. ^ a b p103, Bruce, Alistair, Keepers of the Kingdom (Cassell, 2002), ISBN 0-304-36201-8
  2. ^ a b Constable, Encyclopedia Britannica online
  3. ^ E. M. Kirkpatrick, ed (1983). Chambers 20th Century Dictionary. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd. pp. 772. ISBN 0550102345. 
  4. ^ Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch, Leipzig 1854-1960, Vol. 12 Col. 1673 Online-Version
  5. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary: Marshal. Accessed 8 August 2009.
  6. ^ Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, p. 1140, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6 
  7. ^ Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, p. 1147, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6 
  8. ^ a b c p172, Slater, Stephen, The Complete Book of Heraldry (Lorenz, 2002), ISBN 0-7548-1062-3
  9. ^ Vronsky, Peter. "A Brief History of Constables in the English Speaking World". Retrieved 2007-09-14. 
  10. ^ p72, Bruce, Alistair, Keepers of the Kingdom (Cassell, 2002), ISBN 0-304-36201-8
  11. ^ "Bracton Online". Harvard Law School Library. Retrieved 2007-09-06. 
  12. ^ Henry of Bratton (1968). Bracton On the Laws and Customs of England. Cambridge, MS: Belknap Press. ISBN 0-19-626613-0. 
  13. ^ Guth, DeLloyd J. (1994), "The Traditional Common Law Constable, 1235-1829: From Bracton to the Fieldings to Canada", in Macleod, R.C.; Schneiderman, David, Police Powers in Canada: The Evolution and Practice of Authority, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, p. 6, ISBN 0-8020-2863-2 
  14. ^ a b p276-7, Markham, Sir Frank, History of Milton Keynes and District, vol.1 (1973), ISBN 0 900804 29 7
  15. ^ p591, Inwood, Stephen, A History of London (Macmillan, 1998), ISBN 0-333-67154-6
  16. ^ Wiltshire Constabulary History, Wiltshire Police website
  17. ^ The Making of a Chief Constable, Essex Police website
  18. ^ Rank insignia of a Constable, Finnish Police website (in English)
  19. ^ Rank insignia of a Senior Constable, Finnish Police Website (in English)
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Police Pay". Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  22. ^ RCMP Organisational Structure (in French)
  23. ^ "RCMP Organisational Structure". 2009-05-19. Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  24. ^ Chief Constable's Office, Vancouver Police Department
  25. ^ A Brief Guide to Police History, North Carolina Wesleyan College
  26. ^ Section 36-23-5, Alabama State Code
  27. ^ Section 15-5-30, Alabama State Code
  28. ^ Section 15-10-1, Alabama State Code
  29. ^ About the Constables, Mobile County Constables Association
  30. ^ HB409, May 2005 Act of the Alabama State Legislature
  31. ^ "Mobile County Constables Association". 2009-05-12. Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  32. ^ 22-131, Arizona Revised Statutes
  33. ^ 22-132, Arizona Revised Statutes
  34. ^ "Opinion of the Attorney-General of Arkansas". Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  35. ^ Constitution of Arkansas, Article 7, Section 47
  36. ^ Study J-100, California Law Revision Commission
  37. ^ Constable, Delaware Constable
  38. ^ "Title 10, Chapter 28, Delaware Code". 2009-05-14. Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  39. ^ "Title 10, Chapter 27, Delaware Code". Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  40. ^ "Title 10, Chapter 29, Delaware Code". Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  41. ^ "O.C.G.A. § 15-10-102". Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  42. ^ a b [Attorney General Opinion No. 87-3], State of Idaho Office of the Attorney General
  43. ^ "Idaho Statutes, Title 34, Chapter 11". Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  44. ^ "Idaho Statutes, Title 19, Chapter 5". Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  45. ^ a b c d Duties of Elected County Officials, Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, November 2002
  46. ^ "Mississippi Code". Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  47. ^ "Table of Contents View Frame Page".{2A5}&softpage=Q_Frame_Pg42&wordsaroundhits=2&x=0&y=0&zz=. Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  48. ^ "S535". Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  49. ^ Candidates run but are constables needed?, Cincinnati Community Press & Recorder, 4 May 2006
  50. ^ [1]PDF[2]PDF
  51. ^ There are eight Constables in Harris County,Texas, with a combined force of over one thousand deputies.Each of the eight Constables departments has a Civil, Warrant, and Patrol division, with some departments also fielding some specialized sections.[3]PDF (276 KB)

External links

[provincial civil constables in Canada, [4]

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CONSTABLE (0. Fr. connestable, Fr. connetable, Med. Lat. comestabilis, conestabilis, constabularius, from the La t. comes stabuli, count of the stable), a title now confined to the lord high constable of England, the lord constable of Scotland, the constables of some royal castles in England, and to certain executive legal officials of inferior rank in Great Britain and the United States.

The history of the constable is closely analogous to that of the marshal (q.v.); for just as the modern marshals, whatever their rank or office, are traceable both as to their title and functions to the marescalcus, or master of the horse, of the Frankish kings, so the constable, whether he be a high dignitary of the royal court or a "petty constable" in a village, is derived by a logical evolution from the counts of the stable of the East Roman Emperors.

The Byzantine comes stabuli (Kbl ns Tov rra(3Xou) was in his origin simply the imperial master of the horse, the head of the imperial stables, and a great officer of state. From the East the title was borrowed by the Frankish kings, and during the Carolingian epoch a comes stabuli was at the head of the royal stud, the marshals (marescalci) being under his orders. The office survived and expanded in France under the Capetian dynasty; in the 11th century the constable has not only the general superintendence of the royal stud, but an important command in the army - though still under the orders of the seneschal, - and certain limited powers of jurisdiction. From this time onward the office of constable tended, in France, continually to increase in importance. On the abolition of the seneschalship by King Philip Augustus in 1191, the constable succeeded to many of his powers and privileges. Thus in the 13th century he claimed as of right the privilege of leading the vanguard of the army. Under Philip the Fair (1268-1314) he begins to be invested with the military government of certain provinces as lieutenant of the king (locum tenens regis); and, finally, in the 14th century, owing to the confusion of his high prerogatives as the royal lieutenant with his functions as constable, he is, as constable, recognized as commander-in-chief of the army. The French kings never allowed the office of constable to become hereditary, and in January 1627, after the death of Francois de Bonne, duc de Lesdiguieres, the office was suppressed by royal edict. Napoleon created the office of grand constable for his brother Louis, and that of vice-constable for Marshal Berthier, but these were suppressed at the Restoration.

The jurisdiction of the constable, known as the connetablie et marechaussee de France, was held in fee until the abolition of the office of constable, when it became a royal court, without, however, changing its name. Henceforth it was nominally under the senior marshal of France, and all marshals had the right of sitting as judges; but actually it was presided over by the lieutenant general with the lieutenant particulier and the procureur du roi as assessors. At first peripatetic, its seat was ultimately fixed at Paris, as part of the organization of the parlement. Its jurisdiction, which included all military persons and causes, was somewhat vaguely extended to embrace all crimes of violence, &c., committed outside the jurisdiction of the towns; it thus came often into conflict with that of the other royal courts.

The office of constable was not confined on the continent to France. The Gothic kings of Spain had their comites stabuli; so did, later on, the kings of Naples, where the functions of this officer were much the same as in France. The great vassals of the French crown, moreover, arranging their households on the model of that of the king, had their constables, whose office tended for the most part to become hereditary. Thus the constableship of the county of Toulouse was hereditary in the family of Sabran, that of Normandy in the house of Crespin.

In England the title of constable was unknown before the Conquest, though the functions of the office were practically those of the English staller. In the laws of Edward the Confessor the title constable is mentioned as the French equivalent for the English heretoga, or military commander (ductor exercitus). But among the great officers of the Norman-English court the constable duly makes his appearance as "quartermaster-general of the court and of the army." In England, however, where the office soon became hereditary, the constable never attained the same commanding position as in France, though the military duties attached to his office prevented its sinking into a mere grand serjeanty. He was not the superior of the marshal, the functions of the two offices being in fact hardly distinguishable. From the first, moreover, the title of constable was not confined to the constable proper, whose office in the reign of Stephen was made hereditary under the style of high constable (see Lord High Constable); for every command held under the supreme constabularia was designated by this name, and there were constables of troops, of castles, of garrisons and even of ships (constabularia navigii regis). Under the Norman and Angevin kings, then, the title had come to be loosely applied to any high military command. Its extension to officials exercising civil jurisdiction is not difficult to account for. In feudal society, based as this was on a military organization, it is easy to see how the military jurisdiction of the constables would tend to encroach on that of the civil magistrates. The origin of the modern chief and petty constables, however, is to be traced to the Statute of Winchester of 1285, by which the national militia was organized by a blending of the military system with the constitution of the shires. Under this act a chief or high constable was appointed in every hundred; while in the old tithings and villatae the village bailiff was generally appointed a petty constable, receiving in addition to his old magisterial functions a new military office.

From the time of Edward III. the old title of reeve or tithing-man is lost in that of constable, which represents his character as an officer of the peace as well as of the militia. The high and petty constables continued to be the executive legal officers in the counties until the County Police Acts of 1839 and 1840 reorganized the county police. In 1842 an important statute was passed enacting that for the future no appointment of a petty constable, headborough, borsholder, tithing-man, or peace officer of the like description should be made for any parish at any court leet, except for purposes unconnected with the preservation of the peace, and providing, as a means of increasing the security of persons and property, for the appointment by justices of the peace in divisional petty sessions of fit persons or their substitutes to act as constables in the several parishes of England, and giving vestries an optional power of providing paid constables. Under the acts of 1839 and 1840 the establishment of a paid county police force was optional with the justices. With the Police Act of 1856 this optional power became compulsory, and thenceforth the history of the petty constable in England is that of the police. In 1869 provision was made for the abolition of the old office of high constable (the High Constables Act 1869) and, as the establishment of an efficient police force rendered the general appointment of parish constables unnecessary, the appointment ceased, subject to the appointment by vestries of paid constables under the chief constable of the county (Parish Constables Act 1872). See further Police.

"Special constables" are peace officers appointed to act on occasional emergencies when the ordinary police force is thought to be deficient. The appointment of special constables is for the most part regulated by an act of 1831. In the absence of volunteers the office is compulsory, on the appointment of two justices. The lord-lieutenant may also appoint special constables and the statutory exemptions may be disregarded, but voters cannot be made to serve during a parliamentary election. While in office special constables have all the powers of a common law constable, and in London those of a metropolitan police officer.

In the United States, outside the larger towns, the petty constable retains much the same status as in England before the act of 1842. Hs still has a limited judicial power as conservator of the peace, and often exercises various additional functions, such as that of tax-collector or overseer of the roads or other duties, as may be decided for him by the community which appoints him. In the old colonial days the office, borrowed from England, was of much importance. The office of high constable existed also in Philadelphia and New York, in the latter town until 1830, and in some towns the title has been retained for the chief of the police force.

See Du Cange, Glossarium (ed. Niort, 1883), s. "Comes Stabuli"; R. Gneist, Hist. of the Eng. Constitution (trs. London, 1891); W. L. Melville Lee, Hist. of Police in England (London, 1901); Encycl. of the Laws of England, s. "Constable" (London, 1907); W. Stubbs, Constitutional Hist. of England (Oxford, 1875-1878); A. Luchaire, Manuel des institutions francaises (Paris, 1892). (W. A. P.)

<< Sir Marmaduke Constable

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Simple English

A constable is a person doing a certain job, most commonly in law enforcement. The work and role of a constable can vary a lot in different countries.

Historically, the word constable comes from the Latin, comes stabuli, count of the stables. It came from the Eastern Roman Empire. Originally, the constable was the person who kept the horses of a lord or monarch.[1][2] The title was later used in the monarchies of medieval Europe. In many countries, the constable became a high military rank and great officer of State such as, the Constable of France.

In modern times, constables are law enforcement officers. In the United Kingdom, Commonwealth of Nations and some European countries, a constable is the lowest rank of police officer. In the United States a constable is usually an elected peace officer, with less powers than a sheriff. However, in the Channel Islands a constable is an elected office-holder at the parish level.

Historically, a constable could also be someone in charge of the defence of a castle. Even today, there is a Constable of the Tower of London.

It is a similar position to Marshal, which comes from Old High German marah "horse" and schalh "servant",[3] and originally meant "stable keeper"[4], which has a similar etymology.[5]


  1. p103, Bruce, Alistair, Keepers of the Kingdom (Cassell, 2002), ISBN 0-304-36201-8
  2. Constable, Encyclopedia Britannica online
  3. E. M. Kirkpatrick, ed (1983). Chambers 20th Century Dictionary. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd. pp. 772. ISBN 0550102345. 
  4. Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch, Leipzig 1854-1960, Vol. 12 Col. 1673 Online-Version
  5. Online Etymology Dictionary: Marshal. Accessed 8 August 2009.

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