Cannon County Sheriff Darrell Young said today he is investigating complaints his office has received about persons, not representing one of the county's law enforcement agencies, possibly making improper traffic stops.
Sheriff Young also issued the following statement concerning the use of blue flashing emergency lights by persons operating motor vehicles.
“I have not and will not authorize anyone to run blue lights other than full-time, salaried employees,” the sheriff said. "Anyone not authorized to do so will be prosecuted."
Sheriff Young advised that if a person is not sure who is stopping or chasing them, to call 911 and drive to the sheriff's office or police department.
One of the instances the sheriff's office is investigating involves First District Constable Jim Gibbs.
Sheriff Young said he has also received information Faye Morse, Cannon County's EMA director, was utilizing blue lights on her vehicle.
According to state law, “… it is unlawful for anyone to install, maintain or exhibit blue flashing emergency lights or blue flashing emergency lights in combination with red flashing emergency lights, except full-time, salaried, uniformed law enforcement officers of the state, county or city and municipal governments of the state, and commissioned members of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation when their official duties so require…”
The prohibition does not apply to the motor vehicles of constables who are wearing law enforcement uniforms designed by the governing body of the county in which they serve.
State law grants duly-elected constables law enforcement powers. The Cannon County Commission voted to remove the law enforcement powers of county constables earlier this year. However, the constables will continue to have those powers until their current terms expire.
In addition, state law is not clear as to whether constables can exercise their law enforcement powers unless operating under the directive of a sheriff, police chief, district attorney or court.
Also today, the Cannon County Emergency Communications District (E-911) said it is not authorized to dispatch calls to constables and has not established call numbers for them.
Following are state laws pertaining to the use of patrol cars and wearin of uniforms by constables:
8-10-120. Constable patrol cars.
(a) Constable patrol cars may be white with a brown stripe running horizontally along the upper side. This color scheme shall not be used by any other state or local law enforcement official or agency; provided, that any state or local law enforcement official or agency that is using such color scheme on March 29, 1996, may continue to use such color scheme. When adopted for use by a county constable, the stripe design and other emblems and lettering shall conform to the official uniform markings adopted by the Tennessee constable association or the Tennessee constable council on file with the director.
(b) Constable patrol cars which conform to the description in subsection (a), which are being operated as provided in § 55-9-414, and which are used as emergency vehicles, may be equipped with blue lights and/or red lights and sirens.
(c) Nothing in this section shall prohibit a county constable from operating unmarked cars for other law enforcement purposes.
(d) Any constable operating a patrol car and using the lights described in this section must have graduated from the last calendar date in-service sponsored by the Tennessee constable association or the Tennessee constable council.
(e) Each constable shall be responsible for all costs in marking patrol cars.
(f) The provisions of this section shall not apply in any county which has removed from constables any law enforcement powers.
(g) This section does not apply in counties having a population of not less than fourteen thousand six hundred fifty (14,650) nor more than fifteen thousand (15,000) according to the 1990 federal census or any subsequent federal census.
[Acts 1996, ch. 686, §§ 3, 4; 2004, ch. 655, §§ 2, 3.]
8-10-119 - Official uniform.
(a) Any constable may wear the official uniform of the type and design with the insignias of the Tennessee constable as described in subsection (b). Wearing of the uniform is permissive with the individual constable when such uniform is purchased by the constable; provided, that if such uniform is provided by the county, then the uniform shall be worn in accordance with a dress code adopted by the county legislative body or the sheriff of such county.
(b) The official uniform for the constable shall consist of:
(1) Taupe pants with a one-inch wide brown stripe running vertically down each side of the pants;
(2) Shirts of either dark brown or white, at the discretion of the constable, displaying a patch of a design approved by the Tennessee constable association or the Tennessee constable council;
(3) A necktie of either taupe or brown, at the discretion of the constable; and
(4) Black leather gear and black shoes. Western type belts, holsters and tie-downs are prohibited.
(c) The provisions of this section do not apply in any county which has removed from constables any law enforcement powers.
(d) This section does not apply in counties having a population of not less than fourteen thousand six hundred fifty (14,650) nor more than fifteen thousand (15,000) according to the 1990 federal census or any subsequent federal census.
[Acts 1996, ch. 686, §§ 2, 4; 2004, ch. 655, § 1.]