|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - October 2010
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Retired game warden named deputy constable
Polk County Enterprise
BY VALERIE REDDELL
LIVINGSTON —Commis– sioners voted to appoint Kenneth Hambrick as a deputy constable in Precinct 1 after a debate on the legal distinction between a deputy constable and a reserve deputy constable. Clack said his request was made to replace a deputy who is leaving his office and keeping the number of deputy constables in his office at three. Clack’s request appeared on the agenda for the last meeting and then was modified to make Hambrick a deputy constable rather than a reserve deputy. “I don’t classify them as reserves,” Clack said. “They go through the same schooling. In fact, my people have to go to 20 hours more (training) for this job capacity. If the county is not out any money, call them one thing or the other. It doesn’t matter if they’re afforded the protection.” Assistant District Attorney Michael Matthews advised the court that one of the primary differences is how they’re appointed. “The court has to find that it’s necessary to appoint a deputy to handle the duties of the office,” Matthews said. “Then he is a deputy constable at all times.” “A reserve — if he is TCLEOSE certified — only carries a gun when actively enforcing the law,” Matthews said. TCLEOSE is the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, the state agency that licenses peace officers. Reserves are not paid, not eligible for county benefits, workman’s compensation or other provisions if they are injured on duty, according to Matthews. Willis and Clack said Precinct 1 reserves are onduty at all times, even though Matthews contends they can’t bypass the subtle differences in the statute by appointing deputies 24/7. “I don’t want an officer going out with me and serving warrants on Tuesday then run into that person somewhere on Thursday and that person say ‘You’re off-duty today — you’re not a police officer, I’m going to whip your butt’,” Clack said. Willis said he had talked to Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Darrell Longino to get his perspective. “He also told me, ‘When y’all voted to raise his pay during the budget hearings he went to work as soon as he was notified his salary was going up and you’ll see the increase in collections of fines and so forth’,” Willis said. “Pct. 1 is on the ball collecting money and serving papers,” Willis said. Clack’s annual salary was increased $10,000 to encourage collection efforts and apprehension of people who did not appear in Longino’s court or comply with payment agreements to settle fines. After Matthews advised that deputy constables need to be approved by name after finding a need exists to fulfill the duties of the office, Willis said, “I like the motion you just spit out, I’ll make that a motion.” During the discussion, Matthews, Clack and Sheriff Kenneth Hammack also discussed which county law enforcement officers would be qualified to work “extra jobs,” contract security jobs that many officers work while off duty. Clack said only paid, full time officers are eligible. Hambrick’s appointment passed 5-1 with Thompson voting against. “I think we will inherit some additional liability by changing reserves to deputy constables,” Thompson said. He added that officials in Austin were unable to answer some of his questions on the issue prior to Tuesday’s meeting. TCLEOSE Executive Director Timothy Braaten later said Hambrick’s status as a retired game warden simplifies many of the legal issues surrounding his appointment. Retirees from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department can reinstate their certification after a short continuing education course, Braaten said. Many retain their certification as special rangers whose commissioners are carried by DPS Braaten explained that the distinction between reserve officers and full time or part time officers has diminished in recent years. “There used to be lesser training required for reserve officers, but that ended 12 or 14 years ago,” Braaten said. “Now they are held to the exact same training whether they volunteer or are paid. There are only 114 reserves in the entire state that grandfathered in under the old requirements and don’t have full training.” Braaten said the county can set guidelines on the number of reserves and outline its policy on whether those officers can accept after-hours work. “I have 15 officers that work for TCLEOSE that are exempt from the Private Security Act, but the agency doesn’t allow them to work outside jobs,” Braaten said. Braaten also confirmed that deputy constables are peace officers 24/7. All non-retired peace officers have a responsibility to act when they witness a felony occurring in or outside the county, Braaten said. Retired peace officers are exempted from that responsibility but are typically licensed to carry a weapon, he added.