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Constables Can Play a 'Significant' Law Enforcement Role, Association Prez Says

Constables provide extra law enforcement officers and can be a significant help to law enforcement, despite a state report that calls the office "irrelevant," argues the president of the Kentucky Constable Association.Constables are elected officials in Kentucky. Every county has a few, depending on the county's number of magisterial districts. Jefferson County has three.Upon taking office, constables are given law enforcement powers akin to sheriffs. They can make arrests, perform traffic stops. But, the report notes, they do not have specific duties outlined in the constitution. The report also said that constables perform about .02 percent of recorded law enforcement activities in the state.Constables are not required to have any law enforcement qualifications before taking office, nor are they required to get training -- though some do. Jason Rector, an Adair County constable and the state constables' association president, said constables are still useful tools of law enforcement, at least in some parts of the state. The state has 586 offices, with 509 filled, the report said. "I just think it would be ludicrous to do away with that many number of officers out there," Rector said, citing crime rates. The report -- issued Thursday by the state Justice and Public Safety Cabinet -- said  a majority of the state's county government and law enforcement leaders support abolishing constable offices or limiting or eliminating constables' law enforcement power. The office of constable is part of the Kentucky constitution, which means it can only be abolished through an amendment approved through a referendum.  Rector said his association urges constables to seek training, though he noted that many constables wouldn't be able to do the months-long training required of police officers and sheriff's deputies because constables tend to have day jobs. (Constables are mostly unpaid; they're generally compensated through fees, such as serving court papers.) The Kentucky Constable Association has lobbied the state to provide for more training opportunities for constables, Rector said, noting that those efforts have failed so far. In one concept, Rector said, constables could have their powers limited until they completed at least a basic law enforcement training course. Rector has been a constable since January 2007. He's also a computer technician for Adair County Schools. Constables, he said, are useful to law enforcement in some parts of the state.  Those may include sparsely populated regions, for instance. "There is a significant role they can play," Rector said of constables.

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.