Constables Are A Valuable Asset To Cannon County: Gibbs


It has been brought to my attention, that one or more of Cannon County Commissioners have been discussing the value of constables, and perhaps in violation of the Tennessee Open Meeting law, considering a resolution to diminish their powers.

Constables have existed in Tennessee for over 200 years. They have served the people with heroic honor. Nineteen constables and 2 deputy constables have been killed in the line of duty. Constables presently serve in many Tennessee counties with the blessings and full cooperation their sheriffs and chiefs of police saving tax payers a lot of money.

The sheriffs of neighboring counties such as Warren County Sheriff Jackie Matheny and Coffee County Sheriff Steve Graves work with constables and actively assist in training area constables from neighboring counties. Instructors from The McMinnville and Manchester Police Departments also help train constables including constables from Cannon County. All Cannon County Constables have attended the required 40 hour in-service training at no expense what-so-ever to the taxpayers of Cannon County.

Constables are a valuable asset to the county. Some counties are so dependant upon the services of constables that they even offer office space for constables within the sheriff's office and provide radios to constables. A few counties furnish gas for the constables to patrol their community. While most counties that have constables elect 5 to 7 constables, many have 9 to12 constables. Sullivan County has 24 active constables. In all cases, constables increase the number of law enforcement officers on the street while lowering the budget requirements of local law enforcement and saving tax payers money.

It is the trend in law enforcement to encourage what is referred to as community policing; getting neighbors involved as a partner with law
enforcement through organizations such as Neighborhood Watch. Many departments actually organize citizen patrols.  One Warren County constable, Jonathon Womack, has organized an active citizen's patrol in the Blues Hill area that borders Cannon County. His activities are highly praised by Warren County Sheriff Jackie Matheny. One has to ask, if it is a national trend for law enforcement to seek help from citizens to gain control of crime, why not seek the help of constables who are elected law enforcement officers at the grass root level of government.

The cost of law enforcement today has gone off the scale. It is not uncommon for a street cop to make $100,000 a year. The town of Eagleville in Rutherford County recently hired a police officer to patrol the town. The estimated cost was $45,000 for the first year. That is for one officer. It takes 5 officers to have 1 officer on the street 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In this economy, how can the people be asked to pay increasing costs for law enforcement while sheriffs and chiefs of police turn their backs on valuable law enforcement resources such as constables. The system of constables does exist and works in some areas well. Why can't they work well in all areas? Why does there have to be petty infighting in Cannon County?

The requirements for constables are set by law. Like other law enforcement positions, not everybody is a perfect prospect to be constable. If the quality of the constable candidate is at issue in the county, then the voters should seek other more qualified candidates to run for that position.

In counties where constables are appreciated and encouraged by local law enforcement, the quality of candidates running for the office seems to be better. Competition is great in some areas attracting many former or retired law enforcement officers.  Bachelor degrees are common among the ranks of constables and Master degrees are not unheard of.

In the meanwhile local politicians should respect the people of Cannon County and their vote. In the 2010 Cannon County election, only one county commissioner received more votes than the constable in his district, and in the county-wide vote count, constables collectively received more votes than the sheriff and more votes than the county clerk. The people overwhelming voted for Cannon County constables.

If there is an issue with the constables or a specific constable, I would suggest a meeting with the County Executive and the constables to resolve any questions. If a constable has violated his Oath of Office, then there are ouster proceedings available to remove that constable from office. Cannon County has a lot of very difficult financial decisions to make over the next few months that are far more important than backroom negotiations over petty grievances between elected officials.


Jim Gibbs, Constable