The KLC initiative that addresses peace officer powers of newly elected constables now heads to the Senate after the House of Representatives passed House Bill 239 on Monday. Representative Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger) sponsored the measure that ensures newly elected constables meet peace officer professional standards (POPS) before they can make arrests, conduct traffic stops, or respond to crime scenes.
“These elected officeholders often carry a gun and a badge and exercise the same power as a state trooper, sheriff’s deputy, or city police officer,” Koenig said on the House floor. “The key distinction is that we require police officers, state troopers, and deputies in this state to go through extensive training.”
There are currently more than 500 constables in Kentucky, and only two are POPS-certified.
House Bill 239 does not remove the office of constable from the constitution, nor does it stop constables from serving their community. Newly elected constables who are not POPS-certified could still direct traffic, serve summonses, collect fees for services provided, serve subpoenas issued by the parole board, and perform other duties outlined in statute. Additionally, the bill grandfathers all current constables and deputy constables.
The legislation helps constables receive the required certification by requiring the Department of Criminal Justice Training (DOCJT) to accept one qualified constable into each training class. Koenig highlighted that the provision was added despite a wait of several months for newly hired police officers and sheriff’s deputies. Constables can also attend any Kentucky Law Enforcement Council (KLEC) training.
House Minority Leader Representative Joni Jenkins (D-Shively) cosponsored the measure and rose in support. “This first came to my attention when in my area of Jefferson County we had a rogue constable who put citizens at risk and danger,” she said. “With the passage of this bill, our citizens will know that when they see someone who is a constable and has peace officer duties, they are safe with that person.”
Recent cases highlight the need for training of constables. Koenig spoke of instances in which constables have faced arrest and conviction for sex abuse, shootings, child pornography, drug trafficking, kidnapping, and much more. “Now, we have a man convicted of trafficking in a controlled substance running for constable in Campbell County because the former governor pardoned him,” he said.
“We have repeatedly discussed the need to hold law enforcement to a high standard,” Koenig added. He pointed out that the legislature recently adopted measures that put increased requirements on other sworn officers, including House Bill 191 in 2019 and Senate Bill 80 last session. Both were KLC initiatives.
“House Bill 239 holds constables to the same standards,” Koenig stated, “ensuring that the people who have the power in this state to forcibly detain our citizens are trained law enforcement officials.”
The measure has a January 1, 2023, effective date.