Senate Considers Constable Bill

The Senate State and Local Government Committee passed House Bill 267 Monday morning. The KLC initiative addresses the use of peace officer powers by untrained constables. Representative Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger) sponsored the bill and testified with KLC Director of Public Affairs Bryanna L. Carroll, Somerset Police Chief William Hunt and Grant County Judge/Executive Chuck Dills. All four told members of the committee that the measure promotes safety and public trust.

Kentucky has more than 500 constables, and only two meet Peace Officer Professional Standards (POPS) ‒ the same certification required for sheriff’s deputies and city police officers. However, constables can make arrests, pull over drivers and otherwise infringe on a citizen’s civil rights. If you appreciate your liberty,” argued Koenig, “you don’t want someone who is untrained to take away that liberty.”

House Bill 267 requires constables newly elected after 2022 to receive certification if they want to exercise peace officer powers. Constables do not need peace officer powers to perform community services such as serving summonses, directing traffic and providing funeral escorts.

Carroll stressed that the bill grandfathers current constables and their deputies for as long as they serve and has a delayed effective date of January 1, 2023.

The bill allows constables to apply for training at any Kentucky Law Enforcement Council-certified basic training course, and it requires the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training (DOCJT) to accept at least one qualifying constable in each training class with the cost paid for by the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program Fund.

DOCJT runs 9-10 classes a year with 30 recruits per class. The legislation provides space for constables despite a current backlog for sheriff’s deputies and police officers to receive the mandated training. Additionally, the measure permits POPS-certified constables to utilize blue lights on their vehicles without having to obtain the permission of the fiscal court. They could use the lights as long as they maintain their certification and do not abuse the authority.

House Bill 267 does not remove the office of constable from the Kentucky Constitution, which only names the position, jurisdiction and qualifications. “House Bill 267 addresses constables whose peace officer powers are statutorily granted, not constitutionally,” Carroll noted. The bill ensures constables meet the same high standard as other law enforcement officials in the state. “We want law enforcement in the commonwealth to be trusted,” Chief Hunt testified. “How can we fail to hold constables to the same standards as other law enforcement in the state?”

Senator Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill) spoke in favor of the measure. “If you want the power to forcibly detain someone, that’s a big deal,” he said. “We’re talking about situations that relate to the deprivation of people’s individual liberty.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. Legislators must adjourn the 2021 session by 11:59 p.m. EDT on March 30.