Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Op/ed: Constables redundant, expensive liability for communities

On the question of whether elected constables are still necessary in the 21st century, the Amarillo Globe-News published an op ed by an Amarillo police captain Jeff Lester, a 34-year veteran officer who was elected a Randall County Constable on a platform (which he fulfilled) that he would take no salary and shut down the office:

Each time a constable is elected to what was once a vacant office, voters have created another law enforcement agency that requires county commissioners to provide a reasonable salary, benefits, vehicle and training costs. Since constables are elected officials, they are the boss and don't have to answer to anyone but voters.

The Potter and Randall County sheriff's offices have always diligently handled the duties that can be performed by a constable. When the voters elect a constable, the counties don't reduce the number of deputies to maintain the previous year's budget, nor should they. As the investigative reporting showed, the sheriff's offices will still need the personnel to perform the duties of constables who don't work.

Unfortunately, a constable can be elected and never have had any previous police experience. Sure, they have to get a peace officer license within their first term of office, but do we as citizens really want this type of liability for our county government? Our hiring process for the Amarillo Police Department has rejected many cadet applicants who have received their peace officer's license. There are more important characteristics that a peace officer needs such as integrity, loyalty, truthfulness, trustworthiness and a desire to serve.

I have been an officer with Amarillo Police Department for 34 years and have interacted with other police personnel throughout the tri-state region and to my best recollection, Potter County's four constables did not have prior experience with any agency before being elected.

We have too many police agencies and there is duplication of services which is quite costly to the citizens. Amarillo has four police dispatch centers, three police photo and media labs, two county correctional facilities and the list goes on. Las Vegas Metro Police is an excellent example of where county agencies and local city and suburban police agencies were combined to form one agency, thus reducing the duplication of services and increasing communication, cooperation and supervision.

Am I advocating the combining of our local police agencies?


But for example, Potter County needs a larger correctional facility and Randall County built a facility with ability to expand. With video arraignments and other new technology, Potter County might consider contracting with Randall County for prisoner housing. [Ed. note: Amarillo is the Potter County seat but extends into Randall County.]

Any time we as public servants can save taxpayers money for the services we provide, all options should be considered.


ckikerintulia said...

an ideal place for smaller government.

Texas Maverick said...

Constable accused of official oppression

11:59 PM CDT on Tuesday, May 4, 2010

http://www.dentonrc.com/By Donna Fielder / Staff Writer

Three months after being placed on probation for a criminal mischief conviction and still wearing a gun and badge, Precinct 5 Constable Kenneth Jannereth is the subject of another criminal investigation.