Tennessee Constables are officers of the Tennessee Judicial
System as prescribed by the State Construction who are sworn and
bonded peace officers with full powers of arrest under Tennessee
Code Annotated Title 8, chapter 10. They are charged with
keeping the peace and with the enforcement of the laws of the
state, county and its cities. While their powers as peace
officers are valid statewide, their activities are generally
conducted in the county where they are elected.
Tennessee Code requires that to be certified as a law
enforcement officer with powers of arrest the constable is
required to participate in 40 hours of in-service training and
to be range-qualified each year by a Certified Firearms
Instructor prior to carrying a firearm in an official capacity.
Most constables have obtained a Department of Safety Handgun
Carry Permit in addition to their constable weapons training.
There are two entities authorized by the State of Tennessee to
provide in-service training certification for constables. They
are the Tennessee Constable Council and the Tennessee Constables
Constables often take a variety of courses In addition to the 40
hours of in-service training required, to learn new skills and
to sharpen existing law enforcement skills. Tennessee also
requires all persons that operate an emergency vehicle to
annually attend and pass an Emergency Vehicle Operation Course,
Constables operate as individual officers at no cost to the
citizens or governments of the county. Constables provide their
own uniforms, vehicles, fuel and equipment and stand ready to
aid or assist all citizens and/or agencies within the county.
Their mission is to provide additional law enforcement presence
in the county and to assist and supplement the county Sheriffs
Office and the Police Departments of Woodbury. Constables are
also at the disposal of the various fire departments, EMS units
and rescue squads in the county as well as any state or federal
agency which might have use of their services.
As any position in law enforcement, being a constable can be
dangerous. In the history of Tennessee at least 19 constables
have given their life in the line of duty. One constable killed
in the line of duty in 1972 by gun fire was Constable Thomas Jefferson
York, the son of U.S. Army Sergeant Alvin C. York, the famous
American hero of World War I and Medal of Honor recipient.
Another famous Tennessee constable that came under fire was
Buford Pusser, the famed corruption fighting lawman from McNairy
County. Pusser was the true life sheriff in the dramatized tale
and movie of his life “Walking Tall”. Buford Pusser was elected
constable in McNairy County just prior to being elected sheriff.
While the constable’s position is one of the most misunderstood
elected offices in Tennessee, it is historically the oldest law
enforcement position in the United States. The agencies of
police developed in England served as obvious examples and
models for the American colonies. A parish constable was
appointed for Jamestown in 1607, thereby becoming the first peace officer in
England's new lands.
Many states like Tennessee still actively use constables
as an important part of their law enforcement system.