Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Dallas commissioners to deputy constables: No lights, sirens in personal cars w/o permission, insurance

Here's another example how a relative lack of professionalism among constables and other peripheral law enforcement agencies creates liability for county taxpayers ("Dallas County deputies must get OK to put emergency police gear on personal vehicles, commissioners say," May 5):

Dallas County commissioners voted Tuesday to ban deputies and other employees from installing emergency police equipment such as lights and sirens on their personal vehicles without the court's permission.

The policy also requires employees to get permission from their elected official or department head before installing police equipment in personal vehicles.

The measure was needed, officials said, because some deputy constables have used their personal vehicles for law enforcement purposes while off duty, opening the county up to liability.

The policy also applies to vehicles that currently have the equipment.

Employees who request permission must explain the "public and official" purpose of the police equipment. If their request is granted, employees must get insurance for their cars so they can be used as police vehicles, and the county must be named as an insured party.

"This will help bring under control these renegades," said County Judge Jim Foster, a regular critic of some constable practices.

This is a curious situation which, as Judge Foster rightly notes, is rife with potential pitfalls and extra liability for the county. I wonder how frequently it happens elsewhere, particularly without a supervisor's permission? Are deputies charging the county mileage for using their personal vehicle for official duties? What police work are they doing off duty, writing tickets to people who cut them off in traffic? And if you're a deputy constable installing lights and sirens in your personal vehicle without the department's permission, where would one get them?

What do y'all think about this practice?

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I used to get a police magazine because the prior resident in my home was a member of some sort of emergency team (I believe EMT or firefighter). From browsing through the magazine I got the impression that anyone could order from it. There were lights/sirens, handcuffs, just about any equipment someone in the "emergency" field would use.

Dave said...

Stopping to assist a citizen or another peace officer in immediate danger is fine with me. Anything else is probably out of bounds.

Re: how do they get emergency lights?

It's quite simple - contact a law enforcement supplies distributer.

Galls is the probably the most popular amongst officers. You can get a dash light for around $500 - and as far as I know, you don't have to provide any law enforcement identification when purchasing.

Anonymous said...

Legislature needs to put on ballot a constitutional amendment to abolish the office of constable in every county in the state.

Plato

doran said...

The most serious problem with abolishing the office of Constable state-wide is that all the current Barney Fifes would probably be hired-on as deputies, just to protect their retirement accounts

Donald said...

Doran, ((shudder)) (LOL!)

Anonymous said...

I don't know about abolishing the office totally, but maybe they should stick to their primary duties such as serving process, etc. and not take on additional duties such as traffic enforcement, etc. that are not necessary for their office. Then they wouldnt need to hire on extra deputies for their uncessary roles.

BB said...

Scott,

Research JP Boyett's history and his constables in Brazos in Brazos county. Very interesting literature.

BB

Anonymous said...

Just get rid of them.

Anonymous said...

Legislature needs to put on ballot a constitutional amendment to abolish the office of constable in every county in the state.

Plato


Yea, you go there Plato. Let the lege handle it. That would be like the pot calling the kettle black.

While you're at it, lets not stop with bad constables. Let's get the lege to propose a ballot to get rid of all police, judges, lawyers, teachers, insurance agent, doctors and so on because a few of them are bad.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The reason to get rid of constables is that they're expensive, redundant anachronisms, not that a few of them are bad.

Anonymous said...

So will additional deputy sheriff's who will have to be hired to beef up already understaffed civil divisions of the sheriff who will be required to serve additional civil process.

So where's the savings?

Want to limit what these constables are doing outside the scope of serving the civil papers for the various courts? Cut their upcoming budgets Mr. County Commissioner.

A lege and a voter in Dallas, Tarrant, Travis counties etc. darn sure does not know what is in the best interest of my county.

Anonymous said...

The constables need to go!

EGR said...

Grits,

Check out the DPS investigating Harris County Constable 4 article on the KHOU website...

And... as always I agree that the constables need to be limited to their constutionally designated duties.

Anonymous said...

Harris County Sheriff's deputies file paper through their supervisors requesting permission to mount emergency equipment needed to work extra jobs. An example would be a deputy using his personally owned vehicle to work a DOT construction site, parking his auto with flashing lights to warn oncoming traffic of the site and of the presence of an enforcement unit for the fools that chose to blow thru the cones and around the flagmen. :~)

Anonymous said...

I think when the office of the Constable went outside it's civil duties and started stretching their existence into a public safety initiative they went too far. They have nothing to do with public safety whatsoever and should be limited from this realm. They are responsible for courts and civil papers. Leave the policing to agencies created for that purpose. Change or create laws specifically and directly limiting their authority. Limit their arrest and seizure authority to those duties specifically related to securing the justice courts and executing civil papers only. No traffic, drug interdiction, SWAT teams, off-duty employment, or other general function not specifically related to courts and civil documents.

John_David_Galt said...

I don't know how Texas compares, but over the last couple of years in California, we've had a whole string of cases where police impersonators equip their cars with flashing lights and sirens in order to pull over lone drivers, usually women, and proceed to rob, rape, or kidnap them.

If real police officers are allowed to so equip personal cars and use them for law enforcement, it will become impossible for the public to tell the difference between them and these impersonators. If this happens, I predict two results, both very bad. First, people who get lit up by a real cop in one of these cars will refuse to stop, resulting in chases that frequently end with guns drawn and maybe somebody dead. Second, after those cases get some loud publicity with the punch line "you'd better stop," the impersonators will have things so much easier than now that they will multiply.

So please, let's not go there.

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