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Bill to abolish constable office spurs debate

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

The lack of a quorum in the Local Legislation committee prevented a vote on a bill that would abolish the Tallapoosa County constable office, but it didn’t stop the discussion.

Introduced by Rep. Pebblin Warren, the bill would do exactly what it says – do away with the constable’s office in Tallapoosa County. Warren said she brought the bill after hearing complaints from citizens and out of general concern that constables are less help and more liability.

But a room full of constables – mostly from Tallapoosa County – disagreed strongly.

“We’re just concerned citizens who want to help our communities and we don’t cost anyone a dime,” said John Bland, a constable who also works fulltime as a human resources manager. “I don’t believe I’m a law enforcement officer. I don’t want those powers. But I do want to help if needed.”

Typically, constables carry limited powers in most counties and earn money through work as process servers, making roughly $20 per subpoena or court order delivered.

Only 24 counties currently have constables. The other 43 counties have abolished the office, with most going away after 1982.

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Their decline was primarily due to either a lack of interest or a lack of funds to support the office. Constables also tend to be untrained and there’s little vetting of the candidates for the job.

However, constables attending Wednesday’s hearing said they would happily accept any training and many said they carry their own insurance coverage that they pay for out of their pockets.

“We don’t do this for the money; we do it to serve our communities,” said Jonathan Barbee, a constable in Jefferson County. “And as for the wrong people becoming constables, well, I’d point out that the governor of the state was arrested, the Speaker of the House is about to go to prison. We’re not talking about doing away with those offices. There are good people doing this job and they do help out.”

The committee could vote on the bill next week.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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