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Tuesday, Sep. 30, 2014

FC Township change could affect constables

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Fulton County Election Committee is looking to make a change.

According to a petition filed by the commission Oct. 18, the county's political township boundaries will be revised into one township -- Fulton County Township Number One.

Despite the fact that currently in Fulton County voting precincts and townships are divided the same way, the political boundaries serve two unrelated purposes.

According to Johnny Moody with the Fulton County Election Commission, revising current township boundaries will not affect JP positions, nor will it affect voting precincts.

Revising the county's townships will, however, affect the constables.

Because constables are elected by voters within their township, abolishing Fulton County's 12 different townships and reshaping them into one county-wide township, Fulton will have one county-wide constable.

Fulton County is following the example of various counties throughout Arkansas.

In February legislation was introduced to abolish the position of constable all together.

Various members of the House of Representatives who supported the bill said the position of constable was no longer necessary to Arkansans and that some constables could even pose a threat with their actions.

Originally constables, which are elected every two years, were not required to get law enforcement training before or after being elected to the position.

The constable is one of the oldest forms of law enforcement and has been a part of the state's constitution since 1874.

According to the Arkansas Constable Association Web site, a constable is an executive officer of the county in which he has been elected. Those serving as constables have the responsibility of maintaining peace and assisting law enforcement.

However, many see the position as outdated. Politicians who originally introduced legislation to abolish the position said the problem was constable's lack of training.

In April constables were not abolished, but requirements for the position were amended.

The new requirements read: For a constable to have access to information from the Arkansas Crime Information Center he or she shall satisfactorily complete the constable certification course provided by the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training.

Each year after completing the certification course ... he or she shall satisfactorily complete 16 hours of training provided by the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training.

For a constable to carry a firearm he or she shall attend 16 hours of firearms training, and each year after completing the training ... he or she shall satisfy the firearm qualification standards for a law enforcement official.

The new guidelines also require that constables complete at least a part-time II law enforcement training or higher level training course and mandatory racial profiling courses.

Each constable is also required to wear a specific uniform while on the job, according to the amended law: (Constables' uniforms are to consist of) a long sleeve black shirt with black epaulets and black pocket flaps from April 1 until Sept. 30 or a white shirt on formal occasions at any time; a constable identification patch on the left shoulder of the shirt and an American flag on the right shoulder.

(Each constable should have) a name tag above the right pocket flap of the shirt (and) a 6-point star containing the words 'Arkansas Constable' (worn) on the left side of the shirt.

(Constables should wear) tan pants or blue or black pants on formal occasions and a gray hat with a 6-point star on the front containing the words 'Arkansas Constable.'

If a constable is engaged in search or rescue activities, he or she shall wear a uniform consisting of a black shirt, black pants and a black cap with a 6-point star with the words 'Arkansas Constable.'

In the performance of his or her official duties, a constable shall drive a motor vehicle that is fully equipped with emergency equipment and clearly marked with a 6-point star and the words 'Arkansas Constable.'

All newly elected constables will also be required to participate in a 120-160 hour training course.

Prior to these amended guidelines, constables could be elected and serve as long as he or she had no criminal record and lived within the township in which they were elected.

Moody said all the new requirements could generate major expenses for the county. He said revision of the county's townships was more practical and cost efficient for the county.

The election commission will hold a hearing regarding the matter at 10 a.m. in the Judge's Office at the Fulton County Courthouse Nov. 1.

newsopinion@yahoo.com



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