Proposed bill to eliminate constables

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The debate over the need for constables in Shelby County has resurfaced with the introduction of another House bill to eliminate the position.

State Rep. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) said he drafted the proposed legislation to put an end to the &8220;quasi-law enforcement officials&8221; at the request of Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry and local police chiefs.

&8220;The position really serves no purpose anymore,&8221; Ward said. &8220;The majority of counties in Alabama have already abolished this.&8221;

Constables in Shelby County are elected by popular vote and are seldom contested, Ward said. There are 11 constables listed on the county&8217;s website, though many more seats are left vacant.

Constable Russell Carden said he doesn&8217;t understand why local law enforcement officials would want to get rid of the unpaid positions.

&8220;We were elected by the people for the people to do a job,&8221; Carden said. &8220;We could be of a lot of benefit to this county.&8221;

Carden said constables could support local departments with funeral assistance, school patrol and other duties to free up much-needed manpower and other resources.

&8220;The Sheriff&8217;s Department has got our hands tied,&8221; he said. &8220;They refuse to let us do anything.&8221;

The problem, according to Ward, is that constable seats require no special qualifications or training in Shelby County. Under-qualified constables with arrest powers, sometimes carrying guns and using blue lights, could be a liability to the county, he said.

The proposed bill would have to pass the state legislature and be signed by the governor before becoming law. A similar bill previously introduced by Ward passed the House, but never came up for vote in the State Senate.

Sheriff Curry declined to comment for this story, deferring to Doug Jones, Helena police chief and head of the Shelby County Chiefs of Police Association. Jones could not be reached for comment