by Morgan Montalvo
Somewhere between city police departments and county sheriff's offices, small but prolific law enforcement agencies quietly go about their duties in communities across Texas.
Constables were the first named peace officers in Texas, dating back to the era of the state's independence and retaining the title still in common use in many parts of the world, Bexar County Precinct 4 Deputy Constable Lt. Russell Brandau tells News Radio 1200 WOAI.
Constables offices are organized by precincts, political subdivisions that sometimes overlap neighboring municipal borders within a county.
In Texas, a constable's primary duty is serving in justice of the peace courts, Brandau says, “providing security and acting in the capacity of a bailiff.” As court officers, constables deliver legal documents, including court subpoenas and summons, and also are called to potentially explosive non-criminal situations such as evictions, repossessions, and child custody enforcement.
“The officer is there to maintain peace and civility amongst the parties involved,” says Brandau.
Professor Meagan Hollis with Texas State University’s Criminal Justice Department says constables are the protective agency of choice for non-emergency public safety duties.
“They respond to provide security during fires, and to control traffic flow,” Hollis says. “They do details around construction to make sure that construction workers and the public stay safe.”
ConstableS also watch over sporting events, work closely with school district police, and patrol neighborhoods that report criminal activity within their jurisdictions. In some larger Texas cities, including Houston, constables are responsible for traffic enforcement on toll roads and high-occupancy vehicle lanes.
Deputy constables often serve on anti-drug task forces. Constable's offices are among the state's smallest, and often under-funded law enforcement agencies.
“Because of the responsibilities that we do have,” Brandau says, “we’re sometimes just a little bit manpower-short, and the days are too short to fit it all in.”
In Texas, the chief constable is an elected position.