ConstablesThe rural sheriffs - Arkansas Constable Association

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					  Constables: The rural sheriffs
      Elected officials assist local agencies, preside over
                            townships
                                    By Preston Tolliver
                                   government@couriernews.com

   Though many in the county may not realize it, 18 law enforcement officials face every day
similar threats that Russellville Police officers and Pope County deputies face every day, for
next to nothing in cost to taxpayers.

   Constables, with one serving one in each township, hold as much authority as Pope County
Sheriff Aaron DuVall, but they don’t receive pay outside worker’s compensation, costing the
county a total of about $150 per year, according to Pope County Judge Jim Ed Gibson. Although
they do not receive a salary or reimbursement for equipment, they do receive pay for warrants
served.

  “They furnish their own equipment,” Gibson said. “The only thing we do is pay worker’s
comp on them.”

   Gibson added that constables are oftentimes first-responders on a scene, and give the
community a rural-based authoritative figure who can add more personable approach
in dealing with incidents or criminal activity; though he feels they should not take all the
responsibilities of the local law agencies.

   “I don’t think they should be out giving speeding tickets and things like that, but if they’re
answering a call on mischief or burglaries or something like that, they can be a real asset,” he
said. “A lot of times, they’re right in a neighborhood where the action is happening, and they
can get right on the scene.”

   Russellville Constable Greg Standrige – who is the organizer of the Pope County constables,
serve as chief of the Crow Mountain Fire Department and has served over 25 years for Pope
County EMS – agreed, saying constables should focus heavier on assisting local law agencies.

  “I like to be more on as assist role. If I need to back up an officer and hear that one’s out
another one’s got a five minute ETA and I’m right down the block from him, I don’t mind to get
out and back up and assist him, ‘he said. “I feel like the constable is not a role in today’s time
to be traffic cops. Don’t get me wrong, I do citations, but if I write you a citation, you have
screwed up. You have really messed up.”

   Standridge, who is the longest-serving constable in the county, and who will have served 20
years in the position by the end of this next term, said in his tenure as constable he’s assisted in
incidents ranging from traffic accidents and giving advice to locals to helping local agencies with
drug busts and catching drag-racers late at night.

   “Dispatch will call me and ask if I know who lives in my area that has cows or horses out. I
guess we’re more involved in stuff like that than your full-time law enforcement officials,’ he
said. “They can rely on us for situations when they call and another officer to respond.”

   Because constables are elected, they’re allowed to carry a deadly weapon without attending
classes to obtain a concealed carry permit, though Standridge encouraged all constables to get
necessary training before carrying a gun.

   While Standridge acknowledged that inexperience of some newer-elected officials has
tarnished the reputation of constables in the past, he said most in the position have their
township’s best interest in mind.

  “The sad thing is, constables have taken a bad rep for a few of the newly-elected, when
you’ve got the guys who have the experience and knowledge who know how to handle the
position of constable, “he said. “Most of the constables, they’re doing it because they want to
help. Some do it for different reasons, but I do it as much as anything to help my community.”

  Pope County Sheriff Aaron DuVall described the county’s constables as “very beneficial,”
adding that they can oftentimes link the department with subjects of interest in their township.

  “Many times, if we’re looking for someone or need to know where someone is living so
we can touch base with them, we’ll call the constable because he’s familiar with most of the
people in his area,” said DuVall, adding that some constables work with rural fire departments
and can oftentimes be on-scene before deputies arrive. “If we need extra help in that area,
we’ll call a constable.”

  Constable position will be open for election on Nov. 6.

    “Voters have to be assure that they elect someone who’s up to the task and good, reputable
person who will not abuse his authority,” Standridge said. “It’s not just constables …. with
it being an elected position, like anything else it could be two years before you get to elect
another one.”

(Article printed from the “The Courier” local newspaper in the Pope County area.)
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