Constable's are the oldest law enforcement position in the world. History records Constable's in France in the beginning of the 5th century, when they were known as the Counts of the King's Stables. By the turn of the 6th century they were the Chief Household Officers and commanded the Armies in the King's absence. In the year 871 AD King Alfred of England, declared the Constable was the highest judge in the military offenses and in matters of chivalry and honor. He was also named by the King to be the supreme arbitrator in tilts, tournaments, and martial displays.
Becoming noted peacekeepers under King William "The Conqueror" in 1066, Constable's responsibilities were expanded with the adoption of the Magna Carta, which not only became the pattern for most of the world's Constitutions, but also described Constables in written law. Constables have served the Justice Court system since 1362.
In America, the first Constable was appointed in the Plymouth Colony in 1632. During that time, the leading official was the Justice of the Peace. The Constable enforced the orders of Colonial and County officials in both civil and criminal matters.
In Texas on March 5, 1823 Constable Thomas Alley was appointed in Stephen F. Austin's original colony and sworn in by Judge John Tumlinson. Later, another Constable was sworn in by Judge Tumlinson making the two Constables the first law enforcement in Texas. Three months later, with all the issues across Texas, the original two stayed to protect the local colonies and ten others lead by former Judge Tumlinson were sent out to protect the range and guard the frontier. These men later formed the Texas Rangers. Judge Tumlinson is known as the first Texas Ranger and believed to be the first Ranger killed in the line of duty.
The Constables and Rangers combined became an active group of roughly two hundred men. In 1836 that same group protected Sam Houston's armies from Indians to insure victory against Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto. The Constable was later written into Constitutional law and was the only law enforcement defined by the original Texas Constitution. At that time, Sam Houston formerly separated the two groups. The Constable would be elected by the people in each area, known as Precincts. The Texas Rangers became an Officer of the new Republic. Both groups would be commissioned and report directly to the Governor. Today that still holds true.
Today, Constables are elected and serve a four-year term which runs on the same cycle as the President of the United States. The law defines that the Constable is an associate member of the Texas Department of Public Safety and given that same authority. They are the Officers of the Justice of the Peace Court. Each Constable will appoint Deputies to work under his authority. Each Deputy is given the same authority as the Constable himself. A Constable is considered to be the "Peoples Police" because of their Constitutional origin. .
One Sheriff is elected to each County and is primarily responsible for the operation of the jail and upholding law and order. Counties are divided into Precincts. Counties will have between four and eight Precincts depending on size (Galveston County has eight). Each Precinct has an elected Law Enforcement representative (Constable). It is the Constable's responsibility to observe and uphold the law and order for that Precinct.
Constables are given Constitutional authority to enforce both Civil and Criminal laws. State and City Police Officers are given the authority to only enforce Criminal laws. There are approximately 770 elected Constables in the State of Texas. To this day Texas Constable's and Texas DPS (Troopers and Rangers) all work very close together and both use the Justice of the Peace as their primary judge/court.
Many Constables operate differently across the State. Constable's have continuous jurisdiction and like the Sheriff, they report only to the Governor and citizens that elect them to serve. The operation of the Constable's Office vary depending upon the expectations of the community and the elected Constable.