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2012-11-22

So, what is a constable & what do they do? - Part II

By Rod Chalmers Precinct 4 Constable

(Editor's note: In the second of this two-part series, Precinct 4 constable discusses present day constables.)
So much for history, now let's talk about today. The Texas constitution provides for the election of constables - and that's one of the offices you voted for in the last primary election - and constables serve for a term of four years.
The local government code says that the general powers and duties of constable include: "(a) executing any civil or criminal process throughout the county in which the constable's precinct is located and contiguous countiesand in other locations as provided by the code of criminal procedure or by any other law; (b) serving all civil process in the constable's county or in a county contiguous to the constable's county, except that a constable who is a party to or interested in the outcome of a suit may not serve any process related to the suit; and (c) attending each justice court held in the precinct." In Bandera County, all funds collected by a constable for service of civil process go into the general fund of the county, because constables in this county are on a salary and not commission. Bandera County also includes one more specified duty for constables, and that's litter abatement, which means taking legal action to make folks clean up their property, in the unincorporated areas of the county. Those are the "assigned" duties, but that's not where our activity stops.
The nature of the constable's office varies greatly throughout the state of texas. In some counties, there might be only one constable, and that person might provide their own vehicle and operating expenses and be paid a dollar a year with their only reimbursement being fees collected for serving an occasional civil paper.
In what I call "metro-counties," such as Bexar-San Antonio, Harris-Houston, Tarrant-Dallas-Fort Worth, etc., There might be up to eight constable precincts in the county. Each constable might have a force of up to 250 deputies, with a large fleet of vehicles and separate divisions for civil, traffic, warrants and, in some cases, a swat team.
Bandera County has four constable precincts. Each constable is salaried with a vehicle furnished, operates within his own annual budget as approved by the commissioners court and turns in all civil and warrant service fees to the county treasurer. Although not employed by or working under the direction of the sheriff's office - or any other agency in the county - our constables act as "auxiliary" to the other law enforcement agencies and are on-call when our assistance is needed.
Being certified peace officers for the State of Texas, Bandera County constables have in the past and will continue to enforce any and all laws of the state or county (remember: "... executing and all civil and criminal process ..."). In the far western portions of the county, in addition to providing a visible law enforcement presence in remote areas, constables often serve as the primary enforcers of public safety and traffic laws, allowing sheriff's deputies and Texas Highway Patrol officers to cover the more populated areas of the county. Yes, folks, constables in Bandera County can and do enforce traffic regulations - it's another one of those things that we swore to do when we took our oath. Finally, dispatchers have also learned that a radio or phone call to a constable "out there" can be a real asset when their regular shift officers are tied up on other calls or when they need somebody there - right now!!
The four constables in Bandera County are: Precinct 1 - Phil Tobin, 210-316-8448; Precinct 2 - Ernest Reich, 210-260-0577; Precinct 3 - Don Walters, 830-796-5899; and Precinct 4 - Rod Chalmers, 830-460-1267. Constables in Bandera County, being elected by the people, see their role as true "community policemen," often feeling a close contact with, and a duty to, the people who displayed their trust by "hiring," you know, electing, their respective constables in their precincts.
So, when you need us, you call us and we'll come and we'll do whatever the law allows to help you with your problem. After all, that's what you hired us for.