What is a Constable?

Constables in Texas are county law enforcement officers elected by the voters of the particular Precinct in which they reside.  Constable Precinct boundaries are generally the same as those for the Justice of the Peace for that Precinct.  Angelina County is divided into four Justice of the Peace and Constable Precincts.

The office of Constable has origins going back to England and France and is said to be one of the earliest keepers of the peace on record, dating back to around the 11th century.

The story of constables in Texas starts back in 1820 when Moses Austin left his family home in Missouri and rode 800 miles to the town of San Antonio de Bexar in Spanish Texas to convince the Spanish Governor to allow him to colonize a large grant of land with Anglo-American settlers.  In January 1821, Spain granted Austin his colony but he died about 5 months later as a result of hardships on his return to Missouri from the trip.  Moses Austin’s son, Texas pioneer Stephen F. Austin, was recognized by the Spanish Governor as his father’s heir and successor and Stephen F. Austin proceeded to explore the land looking for areas to colonize.  Austin established several colonies and in 1821, he appointed Josiah Bell as a provisional alcalde, a Spanish term for a person who was given judicial and administrative duties related to the governance of the colony.  In their role, alcaldes became the first justices of the peace for the early settlers who were under the laws and regulations of Mexico, which by now had won a war of independence from Spain.  Later, in 1822, Austin’s colony was divided into two districts by the Mexican Governor with one on the Colorado River and one on the Brazos River.  Elections were then held in each district and Josiah Bell was elected alcalde of the Brazos District and John Tumlinson Sr. was elected alcalde of the Colorado District.  At some point prior to March, 1823, Tumlinson appointed Thomas V. Alley as a constable and the first law enforcement officer in Austin’s colony with his duties being described as to “summon witnesses” and to “bring offenders to justice”.  A short time later, Austin wrote of raising a group of “rangers” as a part of his militia but not actually law enforcement officers at the time, which such group was later to become known as the Texas Rangers.

Modern era county constable positions were created by adoption of the Texas Constitution as an elected office with a term of four years.  County constables are peace officers who must meet the same basic qualifications and training as all other law enforcement officers and must be certified through the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE).  Constables can perform any law enforcement function; answer calls for assistance from citizens, work traffic patrol, conduct investigations and make arrests just as other peace officers do.  Constables routinely execute arrest warrants and serve civil process that is directed to them from various courts in and outside of their county.  Constable’s roles in their county vary widely across the state with some constables performing very little law enforcement duties due to limited support they receive from their county or other reasons to larger counties with big departments and in some cases hundreds of deputies performing all sorts of law enforcement functions.

Constables in Angelina County generally work with their respective Justice of the Peace court and serve writs, summons, warrants and other process for the Court.  Constables serve as bailiff when their Justice Court is in session.  Angelina County Constables currently have no paid staff in their departments, rely on the Justice Court Clerks to collect their fees of office and are not tasked with any exclusive or primary jurisdiction over any particular law enforcement matter unlike the local police and sheriff’s department who are the initial contact for nearly all calls for law enforcement assistance in their jurisdictions.  Angelina County constables do serve in a support role and assist other officers/departments on a regular basis particularly in each constable’s respective precinct but also in any area of the county.

Other information related to my office can be found at the Angelina County website by clicking here: Constable Precinct One