Constables Are A Valuable Asset To Cannon County: Gibbs

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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

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January 14, 2011 at 7:02pm
"It is not uncommon for a street cop to make $100,000 a year." This may be more commonplace on the West coast, where the cost of living is much higher. This is relatively unheard of in this part of the country. I think to bolster your argument about keeping your place in your jurisdiction, you should have used the salary paid to a Cannon County deputy.
January 14, 2011 at 7:50pm
Actually there are 911 dispatchers on the west coast pulling in 100K with overtime. The cost of a police officer would shock you, even in neighboring states. If you factor in PAID benefits, a POII in Nashville Metro will gross around $54,000 before overtime. While I have never seen Nashville data, my experience would say a lot of Metro “street cops” knock down $75,000 to $100,000. Heck instructors at the academy in Donaldson make around $75,000 for a40 hour week. Anyway --- that’s not the point. If you followed the budget meetings last year you would know -- we can’t afford to pay what we have regardless of how little it is ------ That alone makes the value of constables in Cannon County huge.
January 14, 2011 at 7:50pm
Day of constable has come and gone.Hire some more people and give deputies working a raise.45000 a year that not that much for what they have to put up with.If I had a bachelor or master degree I rather be judge or head of FBI.They are not only county workers that need a raise.
January 15, 2011 at 7:37am
Well in defense of the constable and for no other reason other than curiosity, I have to ask why we would do away with a program that costs us nothing and we have never had an issue with? Is this a personal thing or something that has actual merit?

If training is the only issue, then pass a resolution requiring anyone who wants to be a constable go through a specific course or have specific amount of training time.

This isn't rocket science and not utilizing something that is free and could be used in a positive way is senseless.

Lay aside the dislike and personalities and use what you can to make the county a better place to live.

To not do that is an injustice to the people who elect you. The day of the constable is gone because we choose not to use them in a positive way.
January 15, 2011 at 8:27am
Hire some young people men or women that would like to get into law enforcement.Been grants for this in past and were passed up.Plenty jobs out there that do not pay anything that want put any money back into county tax base or woodbury.IF you are not making money you can spend money.That the problem now with wages cut and jobs that were lost.Wages paid to some now compared to the department heads is very low.
January 15, 2011 at 8:55am
You lost me on that argument dmn49.

Are you for or against having a free service that cannot spend any money nor costs you any money to have? And one in which is not taking away any jobs from anyone.

Because I personally think if it is free, if it is something we benefit from, if we would utilize it and we have people that actually want to do it knowing all of that, then we would be stupid to pass a resolution banning it.

Once again, we are worried about personalities and not worried about what is better for our community.
January 15, 2011 at 10:27am
Nothing is free and I for one do not care to work for free maybe you do.Jobs with pay put money back into county and state.
January 15, 2011 at 4:15pm
Because they are elected officials the county is actually responsible for their actions, so says the Attorney General Bill Whitsell they are not trained up to the standard od what the law enforcement community thinks they should be. I have yet to hear in all my years of living here that someone called 911 to ask for a constable to come to the scene of a crime.
January 15, 2011 at 5:11pm
Bob, you stated during the meeting that constables were not needed. Perhaps that is true, but from what I gather in this county it is more a case of them not being wanted.

What bothers me about the resolution stripping them of law enforcement powers is that it was not, in my opinion, given adequate pubic notice, especially since it is an elected position. I think that's something commissioners should consider, in that one day the Tennessee General Assembly may decide to start stripping county commissioners of powers, such as whether a county opts into building codes, or not.
January 15, 2011 at 5:22pm
Each and every Cannon County Constable has met the training requirements set by the Tennessee Legislators. Bill Whitsell and “the law enforcement community” don’t have a dog in the hunt. Neither the sheriff or the D.A. have a right to interfere with the office of constable --- Whitsell worked with Truman Jones to remove Constable powers in Rutherford --- Truman also had a history of suing Rutherford Co. for more money (like someone else I know) – Truman is gone, unelected (like the other guy I know that sued the county) and I predict Bill Whitsell will follow Jones to the sidelines and Cannon County will be a better place for it. ---- About the training --- Take this little test – What current law enforcement officer in Cannon county has the most experience and law enforcement education? a.) the sheriff ; b.) the chief of police; c.) a constable ------- If you answered “c” – you got it right!!! --- Next test will be on the Sunshine Laws ---
January 15, 2011 at 5:47pm
The constables were voted in by their community and why not let them help. Put aside who has the most power and let them help us the citizens. We voted for them to help not to make the sherrif or commitee mad. Who knows Bob, people may call for the constables through 911 if they had the option. I still want to know how they can strip their powers if they are not a paid employee of this county. They offer a free service and are bonded, trained, and caring people trying to help and make people feel that they have an extra service to be safe. Why not use their services to help check on people that have had a recent break in and need that extra feel of security or check on house riden people during bad weather. There are a lot of areas they could be helpful if just given half a chance by the powers that be of this county.
January 15, 2011 at 6:23pm
Sounds like it already headed for law suit slow as everything going in woodbury it will give lawyers a job.I do not like tests. Jones had to deal with so many republicans he had sue to get money out of them to run sheriff department.Like said before hire some more people in sheriff dept there are some young men women need job.People in now want be there forever.There is no law that say you can not sue anyone.My dog in hunt we no longer need constables period.Get with 21 century are be left behind.
January 16, 2011 at 9:06am
This constable deal seems very personal and is reminiscent of the Hatfield’s and McCoy's.

Bob, your argument that constables "are not trained up to the standard of what the law enforcement community thinks they should be" just doesn't wash and is highly subjective. Why does anyone get to "think" they aren't trained and not provide the proof to back it up?

We have some very young Policeman and Sheriff's deputies that have very little experience or training compared to some of these constables. Yet, no one seems to worry or have any problems with that. And no, I don’t recall anyone ever calling 911 and asking for a Constable, but I don’t remember anyone ever calling 911 and asking for a Preacher either. However, they both provide valuable services when utilized properly.

I respect your opinion and I also value it as a former law enforcement officer. You and I have always been friends, but I would hope that you would look at this more objectively.

1. Constables are elected officials by the people in their district. Those people chose them and those people should have a say so in determining if they retain their powers.

2. If it is a training issue and not a personal issue, then make an outline of what training they need and require them all to get it. If they have it, then you have no merit to take away their powers.

3. Utilize them. Don't let anyone set back and thumb their noses at them, put them to work.
Here is a small list of things a Constable could do if utilized. And it is all FREE! FREE! FREE! AT NO COST TO OUR COUNTY!

The can help with Evictions, Subpoenas, Home Security Checks, Traffic, Security Escorts, Delivery of Legal Documents, etc.

Why wouldn't you want FREE help, at no cost to our county and back-up for our current Policemen and Sherriff’s deputies on any of those things? I think if I were a deputy and had to evict someone or serve a subpoena I would be happy to have as much back-up as possible. Why wouldn’t you use them to direct traffic on nights we have home basketball games? Or to help direct traffic when school lets out?

I personally don't have a dog in this hunt, but I do believe that if we have people willing to help, that are elected by their peers and communities and meet all the requirements set forth by the State of Tennessee and our local government then we would be imprudent not to use them. It seems to me we are cutting our nose off to spite our face.

I ask you and all of the other commissioners to lay aside your personal feelings and do what is best for our county.

If removing their powers is what is best, then educate us and explain why. If that is really the case then I want to know why and you and the other commissioners should have no problem explaining it.

January 16, 2011 at 12:46pm
Let one get the county in trouble and you will find out how free it is.Training is one thing common sense and good judgement keeps officer alive and county out of trouble.
January 16, 2011 at 4:31pm
I know you are against it dmn49, you are against everything no matter what it is.

I would prefer someone who actually knew something about it vs. you with your National Enquirer theories.

January 16, 2011 at 5:57pm
I respect you opinion dmm49 – but -- what part of “Cannon County Constables ALREADY have ALL the education REQUIRED by LAW. Plus, some have more education and experience than some of the deputies and police officers. One has more education and experience than the sheriff and the chief of police --- Education is not a legitimate issue!. ---- I would also like to see more deputies hired and all of them paid more – BUT – I am also a tax payer and I don’t want to taxes raised either. ------ I will quote Kevin George from his campaign material, "Our schools need updating so our children don’t fall behind. Our Fire Dept. is still way below state standards. Our jail is overcrowded and getting old. These issues, along with many more, must be dealt with without expecting our seniors on fixed incomes to pay for it." ----- Now Kevin George wants to eliminate qualified constables who are up to state standards, for what reason? When asked during the meeting, he refused to answer. Who will he eliminate next – First Responders? The Rescue Squad? Volunteer Fire Fighters? They are all a liability that requires training --- Who judges how much training? Kevin George? The Sheriff? The D.A.? --- Actually, the legislators made that discussion and every constable has met the requirements – and then some!!!
January 17, 2011 at 5:38am
I have been reading the comments posted and I suppose the next question should be to Kevin George, what's the deal? Why do you want the constables eliminated? Since they recieve no pay it must be something personal. Maybe you are just threatend by them. And finally to tnconstable, I totally agree with everthing you are writing.
January 17, 2011 at 6:00am
Mr. George stated during the meeting that he had received complaints from constituents about problems they had experienced with a constable or constables. He did not specify the nature of the complaints.
January 17, 2011 at 9:14am
No mr Corey Iam not against everything Iam for Raise in minimum wage or living wage healthcare at reasonable price new better roads electric water,social security medicare education and schools and organized labor and hiring more deputies.And to mr TN Constable taxes are what makes government run and work for people if they use or dont keep constable taxes are not going to stay the same.Taxes always come up. USA ranks 27th in overall taxes we pay out 30 countries so we are not paying to much taxes.If you love usa you need to like taxes and we all need a raise.Better pay pays bills and taxes and keep people off welfare rolls.
January 17, 2011 at 9:21am
"If you love usa you need to like taxes and we all need a raise."

I don't recall ever receiving a raise because my taxes went up.

Somehow you seem to also overlook the trillions of dollars already being spent on roads, electric, water, social security, medicare, education, etc. And the waste, fraud and abuse which is a constant in the process.
January 17, 2011 at 9:42am
You are wasting your time Kevin trying to convey logic to people obsessed with blame and anger.

I am still waiting on someone to explain the reasons behind removing the powers of the Constables.

I don't want a "he said" vs. "she said" explanation. I don't want a "They are not trained to the standards we think they should be" answer.

I want to know the logical reason why we are removing powers from a group of people who were elected by their peers and communities and have met the State of Tennessee requirements to hold the office.

If there is a logical reason and not a personal reason, then here is the forum to explain it. I am not against it if there is a justifiable reason behind it. I just want an explanation.

I just don't understand why we are so intent on removing anyone who is willing to serve and help our community.

And, I also don't understand why we would remove the powers without first asking the people that elected them if that is what they wanted.
January 17, 2011 at 10:11am
That the way government works.that was my point your taxes went up but you did not get a raise.States are short of money now because BUSH-Obama tax cuts and then the counties suffer.As for waste you can not deny the majority for what the few do wrong.
January 17, 2011 at 10:31pm
Corey, call me on the phone if you want to discuss this, there is no need debating this on a web site. When you write something on a website you will never win.
Bob Stoetzel
January 18, 2011 at 3:37am
An astonishing statement Bob. The Web, like the telephone, is a tool for discussion, the free exchange of ideas. I fail to see how the telephone is a more useful discussion tool when it comes to winning or losing a debate. Of course I also don't see why there has to be a winner or loser.
January 18, 2011 at 9:49am
Corey wants to know reasons. I plan to give those reasons with out someone else interjecting their own side. There should be no confusion between me and Corey. And if my statement has to go through your approval before it gets put on the web site then it is not a useful discussion tool there is the possiblity that the meaning gets distorted.
January 18, 2011 at 10:19am
I don't change yours, or anyone else's, statements before they are posted, so there is no chance of them being distorted. However, if you want to share "reasons" for your actions as a commissioner with Corey and no one else, you have every right to do so.
January 18, 2011 at 12:10pm
Exactly, You already know all the reasons, because I have shared them with you before.
January 18, 2011 at 1:14pm
Thanks Bob, I appreciate your offer.I will contact you sometime soon.

I have already talked with Kevin George and he explained in more detail and I posted that response under the poll article.

I will follow up with you out of respect and because I would like to know your take on it as well.

Case closed for me. Again, my intent was not to create any hard feelings or offend anyone. I just simply wanted to know the reasoning behind it all.
January 18, 2011 at 4:16pm
The simply fact is that under law the elected commisioners has the right to do this. Lets remeber they are not removing the constables just limiting their power so as to protect our hard earned tax dollars!

January 18, 2011 at 7:06pm
I have always had a great deal of respect and admiration for Mr. Stoetzel, not only when he was a law officer in Cannon County, but even more so in the years that followed.

He probably brings more knowledge and experience to this discussion than all the rest combined and that isn’t to say Mr. Gibbs is not well versed on the issue also, but he has an axe to grind, so his view point would seem somewhat skewed. Those deciding the issue should pay a great deal of attention to Mr. Stoetzel suggestions.

The reference to Barney Fife would led one to believe there may be at least one person holding a position as constable in the county that should be allowed only one round and that one to remain unchambered.

Curious–did the present Sheriff or Police Chief or any of the other past law officials have an opinion?

After a reread (and that was not really needed) it does appear from the length and number of posts, someone is in dire need of a sagacious Sancho Panza to guide them thru this journey as an activist. I am sure there will be other windmills out there.
January 18, 2011 at 10:32pm
Actually Daily, the only ax I have ever ground in Cannon County politics is going after the skewing of the manners and disregard of the law by our elected representatives. Frankly, I am tired. Kim Davenport knows well of what I speak of. For over 12 years I have personally held the local politicians to their oath of office and most of the time it has fallen on deaf ears. Over the years I have paid dearly for my efforts – Much worst, so has my lovely wife who could care less about politics. ------ Now twelve years later ---- We still have elected officials not willing to publicly state their skewed views ---- because, publicly, they can be corrected. I for one, don’t appreciate the willingness of one of our county commissioners to “discuss this” on the phone one on one with a critic while stating ---- “There is no need debating this on a web site. When you write something on a website you will never win.” ---- The absence of public forum, the suppression of free speech the refusal of announced and open debate by our elected officials are all the death of democracy. Don’t discuss this on the phone, don’t talk about it behind closed doors ---- Let the people vote --- not on this web site, but at the ballot box after an open campaign for or against – Open the government to the people – After all, it belongs to them.
January 19, 2011 at 5:29am
Mr. Gibbs, no personal affront was intented towards you. In fact, I came over and slipped an envelope in your doorway with money in it for your run as sheriff many years ago. At that time, I honestly thought you were the best candidate in the run for that office.
January 20, 2011 at 12:24am
i think i'll chime in on this conversation. at the beginning of this conversation it was said that sheriff's CHOOSE to use constibles in other counties. that being said, if a sheriff or other leading law enforcement offical in the county wishes not to use them that should be the end of the story.
and believe it or not, if something does happen in the county and a constible is involved, the county will pay, just as if it was a deputy.
i for one am against having constables in cannon county. never saw a use for them and probably never will, especially when one in particular has tried to use his power not only out of his district but outside of the county. i know this because i was there. on top of that when i recieved a call from a rutherford county deputy to take my statement, it was brought to my attention that i am not the first one to have a statement taken about the same constible trying to use this power.
gibbs states that the sheriff or the d.a. have no right to interfere with the office of constible, yet as i said before, he stated that the sheriff's CHOOSE to use them.
suck it up man if they dont want you, then go away. you talk about being elected by the people of your district, did everyone vote for you, or half, or even a quarter.
i find it really easy to win when there is no one running against you as in previous elections.
yes some constibles have more experience than some of the new deputies and city officers, but you'll also be making it to the nursing home along time before them. and you also want to talk about their training not being up to snuff? get outta here.
this aint all i got to say but i want to see a responce to what i have already written.
January 20, 2011 at 5:06pm
Very well said superman time has come and gone. Time to start constables museum not bad idea kinda like going to see old steam engine.And if you have that many degrees why would you want to be a constable.If Iam going to get shot at and put up with some of nut jobs they deal with I want to be paid.Good police officer is not paid enough and good common sense and good judgement keep officer alive and protects taxpayer from law suits.
January 20, 2011 at 7:46pm
LOL way to "Love Thy Neighbor" there dmn49.

You are such a example of how people should act toward one another. I am in AWE!
January 20, 2011 at 8:21pm
Dear Mr Gibbs, that was a wonderful, thoughtful assessment of what I agree to be a very valuable asset to this county. I hope everyone will have the opportunity to read your article!
Thank You!
January 20, 2011 at 8:31pm
DMM49 I'm curious, is your argument that you or someone you know needs a job, and the Constables are standing in the way? I am interested in trying to make the most out of the resources we have at hand that save the county money. Since they are elected, it seems to me that is the will of the people, and so I just cannot understand the county wanting to strip away these powers.
January 21, 2011 at 6:28am
Who knows what dmn49 is thinking or saying or believing or writing, etc. etc? Just complaining to be complaining from everything I have ever read.

However, kevinh from the response I got from Kevin George, the Commissioners are not actually doing away with the office of Constable, they are voting to remove some of the current powers they have. Not sure which ones or if that means all of them.

The reasoning I got was because of the liability Constables bring to the County and the Commissioners if they choose to work as independent agents outside of the jurisdiction of the Sherriff’s office and someone gets hurt in the process.

That is the reason why, I didn't know if you knew or not.

January 21, 2011 at 4:23pm
Thanks for the info Corey
January 21, 2011 at 8:37pm
The liability issue – that constables might get hurt -- is misdirecting the issue. Any person entering law enforcement accepts the risk that they may get hurt. Trying to minimize the issue by “just taking away some of the powers” doesn’t fly either. You have to really understand the value of law enforcement powers, to understand why it is important that constables have them. --- Back to liability -- Is the county liable for constables – YES – But, the constable also falls under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act which limits the liability which restricts the County’s liability.. ------ The reason for the act is simple ----- If the County is so afraid of law suits that they will not act --- then it is worthless to have any law enforcement. Constables are an elected official separate from any other office. The sheriff and constable have always been separate offices -- this was all thought through by the framers of our Constitution. ---- that was the way it was intended to be. So to harp about the separation the offices doesn’t make sense --- That was the way it was intended. ------Another intentional act was ---- NO ELECTED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER in Tennessee is required to have P.O.S.T. certification –– Sheriffs, Constables, and Marshalls were all exempt from P.O.S.T. requirements --- The sheriff is now required to attend a 2 week sheriff’s school ---- That’s it --- WHY --- Because the were intended to be citizens first. --- So why do we want to undermine old Constitutional and more recent legislative intent ---- I guess you have to ask those that oppose them. Regardless, Cannon County Constables are less of a liability than the 100 plus volunteer firefighters we have responding to a fire in their personal vehicles.
January 23, 2011 at 3:49pm
if you are so intent on proving that constables are separate from the other agencies, why dont you act without their approval and see what happens?
also, don't start in on the firefighters. those men and wemon are brave souls that on a daily basis give their all. they VOLUNTEER for a reason and i am proud of them for it. yes they carry liability on them too in their personal vehicles but sometimes you just try to get there anyway possible.
using them to misdirect the conversation is just sorry
January 26, 2011 at 7:35pm
if this site is not a way to debate and state your own opionion then why have it. We all have a voice and the internet is the new way to voice and share what we think. Also, if you want to put something in the paper which is our constitutional right of Freedom of speech why then are we told no if it involves the constables. I thought we had the right to put something in the paper but I guess not if it disagrees with "someone" who works there and has never wanted constables anyway. Why punish all the constables if one does something wrong? You dont punish all the deputies if one messes up or any other job, so why do they not have the same treatment? Who knew that a public offical that is only wanting to help their communities could cause such as stir.
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