From time to time, we receive questions from municipal officials and/or Constables, inquiring about a variety of topics specific to the office of Constable. These questions touch on such issues as the Constable’s roles and responsibilities, the town’s ability to control the actions of a Constable, liability, law enforcement authority, jurisdiction, having appointed constables versus elected constables, and training and certification.
One resource for municipal officials is the Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT). Questions regarding roles and responsibilities, town controls, elected vs. appointed, liability, authority, jurisdiction, and general municipal issues surrounding this position, can best be directed to VLCT’s Municipal Assistance Center at 1-800-649-7915. Visit the VLCT’s Website.
Questions regarding training and/or law enforcement certification can be directed to the Criminal Justice Council at (802) 483-6228.
What authority do constables have and what training do they need to exercise their authority?
All constables, whether Level II or Level III, first or second constable, appointed or elected, have powers specifically enumerated in 24 V.S.A. § 1936a (b). These include the power to:
- serve civil or criminal process (12 V.S.A. § 691)
- destroy animals (20 V.S.A. Chapter 193)
- kill injured deer (10 V.S.A. § 4749)
- assist the health officer in the discharge of his or her duties (18 V.S.A. § 617)
- serve as a district court officer (4 V.S.A. § 296)
- remove disorderly people from town meeting (17 V.S.A. § 2659)
- and collect taxes when no tax collector is elected (24 V.S.A. § 1529).
Any additional authority constables have is determined by the municipality they serve. For instance, municipalities, through their selectboards, may direct their constables to enforce civil ordinances. Selectboards may also direct their constables to enforce criminal ordinances if their constables have law enforcement authority. See below for law enforcement authority prerequisites.
Additionally, municipalities may vote at special or annual town meetings to prohibit constables from exercising any law enforcement authority whatsoever. Please note that, effective July 1, 2012, elected constables are no longer exempt from the training requirements that apply to appointed constables. The Vermont Criminal Justice Council is statutorily charged with adopting rules and regulations governing law enforcement officer training requirements. Constables who exercise law enforcement powers are considered “law enforcement officers” and cannot exercise those powers before completing the basic training requirements prescribed by the Council (see Level II and Level III requirements).
Constables certified as either Level II or Level III law enforcement officers must adhear to the same criteria for maintaining certification as any other Level II or Level III officer (see rule 13).
Constables with full law enforcement authority may exercise the same law enforcement powers as an other certified Level II or Level III law enforcement officer. Generally, the only difference between constables with full law enforcement authority and other law enforcement officers is their jurisdiction is limited to the boundaries of the municipality they serve.