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Legislation requires training for constables

By Eugenia Jones

Thanks to legislation already sent to the Governor for his signature, Kentucky’s elected constables may soon be required to undergo extensive training before they can perform certain duties as peace officers.  House Bill 239 requires constables elected after January 1, 2023 to undergo the same training as police officers and sheriffs’ deputies before they can execute law enforcement duties.  As of now, constables can perform traffic stops and make arrests with no specific law enforcement certification or training.  Currently, the requirements for becoming a constable are minimal in that candidates must only be at least 24 years of age and a resident of the state for two years and of the district for twelve months.  Constables are exempted from the training required of state and local law enforcement.  HB 239 reverses that exemption by requiring constables who perform peace officer duties to complete a Kentucky Law Enforcement Council certified training.

The office of constable was established in the Commonwealth’s 1850 Constitution, and Kentucky is one of the few states to elect constables.  Constables are currently elected in each magisterial district.  Most constables in Kentucky are paid for serving legal documents (e.g. warrants, subpoenas) and do not receive a salary from local fiscal government.  However, McCreary County is one of the few counties providing a salary.  With four constables, the county currently allots $11,244.52 per constable for benefits (insurance, retirement, social security, etc.) and $7,092.80 per constable for annual salaries, bringing the total budgeted amount for constables in McCreary County to $73,349.28.

Constables are allotted $375 worth of fuel per month.  They are required to fuel constable vehicles through county-owned gas pumps using a pin number, and McCreary County constables are never directly reimbursed for fuel.  Gas pumps belonging to the county automatically register and indicate when constables reach their $375 monthly limit on fuel.  Constables who choose to do less patrol in the role of law enforcement may not need all of their monthly fuel allotment.  In such cases, the allotted fuel remains with the county.  

Currently, McCreary County constables vary in how they perceive and prioritize their duties and responsibilities.  While some local constables prioritize general duties such as serving legal documents, others actively pursue law enforcement responsibilities.  Since constables are elected by the voters, it has ultimately been left to voters to decide and establish the role of constables in individual districts.   If HB 239 becomes law, the role and duties of constables in KY will undoubtedly become much more defined and standardized.

Locally, this year’s election ballot reflects contested races in all four constable districts, and the outcomes will be interesting.  With HB 239 applying only to constables elected after January 1, 2023, this year’s crop of constables may be the very last group of constables to avoid required law enforcement training. 

(As of press time, HB 239 was awaiting the Governor’s signature, veto, or passage into law without the Governor’s signature.)

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