THE OFFICE OF THE CONSTABLE OF GREGG TOWNSHIP, CENTRE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
Differences Between Constables, Sheriffs, Police & Game Wardens
What is a Constable?
Pennsylvania State Constables are sworn law enforcement officers who duty is to support, obey, and defend the Constitution. They are elected or appointed to a six-year term of office. Constables play an important role as officers of the peace – empowered to quell a disturbance of the peace, perform statutory duties under Pennsylvania’s Dog Law, and with the statutory authority to make warrantless arrests for felonies, as well as trespassing offenses against forest laws if detected within their presence. They also are an integral part of the judicial and elections systems.
Constables are mandated by statute to provide peacekeeping duties at all elections, charged with maintaining order at the election polls and ensuring that no qualified elector is obstructed from voting. Constables are the only law enforcement officials permitted at the polls on election day. Constables are defined as “police officers” under Pennsylvania’s Dog Law, and have statutory authority in the recovery of dogs at-large in public or upon the property of a person other than the owner of the dog.
Pennsylvania State Constables are not supervised by a municipality, county government, District Attorney, Court, or Sheriff. Constables have statewide jurisdiction and are considered to be the “Peoples Peace Officer” because as elected officials they are independent of other governing bodies. This provides the Constable with the freedom and authority to perform the duties of the office according to statute in the interest of justice. Constables are considered by the PA Supreme Court as “independent contractors” that orbit the judiciary for court related work, and whom belong analytically to the executive branch of government. In re Act 147 of 1990, 528 Pa. 460, 598 A.2d 985 (1991). Constables aid the judicial process, but are not supervised by the courts. Rosenwald v. Barbieri, 501 Pa. 563, 462 A.2d 644 (1983). A minority of Constables are trained and certified by the Commonwealth under Act 49 to serve process within the Unified Judicial System (to include the authority to arrest by warrant anywhere in the Commonwealth).
Constables do not investigate the crimes code, nor are considered “first responders” in the vein of your local police or fire departments. However, Constables can assist with tasks that allow those professionals to focus on their primary duties. Such as, Constables are empowered under PA Vehicle Code Title 75 § 3102 to direct traffic.
Did You Know?
History of Constables
Constables were one of many political institutions introduced into English Law by the Norman conquerors whose “Conestabulus” or “Count of the Stable”. The earliest conception of Constables were as regulators of games and conservators of the peace. The term ‘constable’ is derived from the Latin `comes stabuli’, an officer who regulated all matters of chivalry, tilts, tournaments and feats of arms. Constables were responsible for keeping the militia and armaments of the King and villages in a state of preparedness. The Office of Constable was introduced into British common law around 1088 AD. It was the duty of each free citizen to assume the responsibility as a local Parish Constable for the term of one year. The position was unpleasant, unpopular, and unpaid. The serving Constable was expected to combine his work as Constable with his ordinary work. Despite the earliest conceptions of Constables as mere regulators of games and conservators of the peace, it is beyond question that by the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries their duties had expanded considerably. Eventually, the position evolved into the institution we know today (with it’s contemporary professional framework established in the 19th century).
Constables in the newly forming colonies of America brought with them some of the trappings of the British Constable. Under William Penn’s governance, Constables were chosen during the early organization of the Pennsylvania colony. Constables were charged with the duties of local peacekeeper. They were required to maintain the peace, execute warrants, and to ensure that no unruly crowds were allowed to gather. Constables were appointed to hold governance over a particular geographic region. Later on with the incorporation of townships and boroughs provisions were made for the election or appointment of Constables within those districts. The Office of Constable in Pennsylvania has existed since 1664, dating the office as the oldest form of law enforcement in the Commonwealth. The Office of Constable predates County Sheriffs, local municipal Police Departments and the Pennsylvania State Police – all of whom have derived some of their most basic powers and authority from the position of Constable.