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PA Constables want same access as other law enforcement officers

Published On: Dec 15 2012 05:18:04 PM CST

Constables looking for more rights

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

They are on the front lines fighting crime, but say they don't have the same rights as all police officers in the state.

Now some constables are saying legislation is needed so they can access all information.

People crafting the legislation are using a 1991 Pennsylvania supreme court opinion that states constables generally enforce and carry out the law the same as district attorneys, sheriffs, and the police.

Some district attorneys feel that that's not the case because constables have no one to answer to.

Some that have been served a warrant probably met one of the 1,300 certified constables in the Commonwealth.

“We serve warrants, we have criminal authority, we also have civil authority," said Ian Castaneira, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Constables.

"We are also the only law enforcement allowed to be in an election polling place on election day.” 

Even with this authority, not all people believe that constables are on the same level as police officers and sheriffs in the state.

“They are elected in their districts and they are really not accountable to the Commonwealth, they're not accountable to the judicial branch of the government, they're not accountable to the county in which they work, they're not accountable to the district attorneys of Pennsylvania,” said John Morganelli, Northampton county district attorney.

“Technically we do have a direct supervisor, that's the governor," added Castaneira. "We're under the executive branch not the judicial branch.

So technically judges, and DA's and so forth have no more authority than they do over a standard citizen.”

A 1991 Pennsylvania supreme court opinion stated the same thing.  

Now the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Constables is looking to have legislation introduced in Harrisburg.

“We're not looking for more power," said Castaneira. "We're looking for the power that was already authorized to us under the laws of the statute of this state."

The legislation would take care of four areas.

Access to all records, force judges to use elected constables, safety, and oversight.

But it could be an oversight committee without much power.

"We've had issues dealing with constables mostly because of the lack of training and the second problem with constables are is they are really not accountable to anyone,” said Morganelli.

The PAFOC wouldn't tell us which legislator is thinking about sponsoring the bill.

They want to wait until the 2013 session starts to do that.