State lawmakers look at abolishing constables

    11:02 PM, Jan 19, 2011   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- The legislative push is on to abolish one of the oldest jobs in law enforcement history.

    We're taking about constables; there are hundreds of them serving townships across Arkansas right now.

    This resolution is one proposal for the three constitutional ballot measures that lawmakers will select in the current session. So if it's approved in the House and Senate, voters will have the final word on constables in Arkansas.

    "I stated as a Constable in Pulaski County in the 1970's, then moved to Lonoke County," Vince Scarlata said.

    We're on the road with Scarlata, an elected constable serving Oak Grove Township in Lonoke County.

    "This is the part of town I have the most trouble with," Scarlata said as we ride along with him on the job.

    It's trouble with neighborhood squabbles and some drugs. 

    "There's some meth out here and occasionally a fight," Scarlata said.   

    And when it all goes down, Scarlata's typically the first responder.

    "I can be dispatched by the 911 dispatch just like the deputy sheriff and in many cases get to a call quicker than they can," Scarlata said.

    It's a quick response now under scrutiny at the state capitol.

    "I just feel it's time that Arkansas move on and realize it's time, we don't need constables," Senator Sue Madison said.

    Senator Sue Madison from Fayetteville is sponsoring a resolution to abolish Arkansas' constables, basically sheriffs for townships.

    "I feel like it is an archaic office. Now we have police departments for cities, towns, we have sheriff's office, they're trained, they have expertise in their area," Madison said.

    Madison's also concerned with constables having no supervision and back-up on the job.  

    "It's very disconcerting for law enforcement to have them arrive and I think the public is bewildered sometimes by it," Madison said.

    But Scarlata argues on his beat local authorities respect his role.

    "We all work together, we have no problems," Scarlata said.

    And he says the public appreciates his work. "We don't just arrest people and give out speeding tickets. We are also a guardian of the community," Scarlata said.   

    It's a guardian now facing possible extinction.

    Constable Scarlata calls the latest legislation bogus and doesn't feel it will pass. But he also says the State Association of Constables, of which he's a part, will be at every meeting addressing this possible removal.

    Senator Madison says discussion should start in committee within the next month.

    View who your constable is here.

    Leave your thoughts below on what you think legislators should do with the office of constable or join the conversation on our THV Facebook page.

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