From Academic Kids

For the painter see John Constable. For the city in New York, see Constable, New York.

A Constable is a person holding a particular office, most commonly that of law-enforcement. However, the office of constable can vary significantly in different jurisdictions; reference the sections below for specific information.


United Kingdom

A constable is a police officer in Britain and most countries with a British colonial history (now mostly members of the Commonwealth of Nations). This gives rise to the alternative name of Constabulary for the police force.

Technically, every sworn police officer in these countries is a constable, since it is from this office that they derive their powers, but in general usage it refers to a police officer without any other rank.

In British law and similar legal systems, a Constable has the legal powers of arrest given to him directly by a sworn oath and warrant, rather than being delegated powers that he has simply because he is employed as a police officer. Technically this means that each sworn constable is an independent legal official rather than simply an employee of the police.

The rank of Senior Constable can sometimes mean the head of the police force in an area, but this is not the case in the UK. The Chief Constable is the title of the head of all British police forces except the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police, which are headed by Commissioners.

Other British police ranks (outside the London forces) include:

The additional identification prefix of Detective is added to the ranks of members of the Criminal Investigation Departments and Special Branches up to Chief Superintendent (e.g. Detective Chief Inspector, Detective Constable, etc).

Every officer still only has the powers of constable, no matter what his rank. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis has exactly the same police powers as an ordinary constable. Section 30 of the Police Act 1996 says that "A member of a police force shall have all the powers and privileges of a constable throughout England and Wales and the adjacent United Kingdom waters". By agreement, however, these powers are only generally exercised within the officer's own force area and the immediately surrounding force areas (except in an emergency).

A Special Constable is a volunteer Police Officer, with the same powers as a regular officer. The main role of a 'Special' is to work with the local Constabulary to provide a heightened police presence on the streets and in the local community. They may also be requested to police particular events such as football matches and community events.

Head Constable is the title for a Police Sergeant in some Commonwealth police forces and was also the title of some British police force chiefs until police ranks were standardised.

United States

In the United States, a constable is a court official chiefly responsive for service of process: such as summonses and subpoenas for people to appear in court in criminal and/or civil matters. Usually a constable is appointed by the judge of the Court in which he or she serves; in other states the constable is an elected position at the village, precinct or township level of local government. In Pennsylvania, the constable is considered a locally elected state court officer as all courts are part of the state court system. Constables may sometimes perform other duties normally required of law enforcement at a county level, exercising the same duties of a sheriff, but over a smaller jurisdiction. However, in Texas, constables have full law enforcement authority throughout their respective counties. In Texas, Arizona and other states, the village or town constable may be called a marshal. Other states also have civilian process servers who are called constables.

A constable may be assisted by deputy constables as sworn officers and constable's officers as civil staff, usually process servers.

Channel Islands

In Jersey and Guernsey, the elected heads of the parishes are titled constables (connétables in French). In Jersey, the constables also represent their parish in the legislature.

Ancient Court Position

A courtier in some European countries during the Middle Ages, in charge of keeping the horses of his lord. The title comes from Latin "comes stabulari" (count of the stables).

In some countries this developed into a high military rank, such as:

The office of 'constable' was held by the person in charge of the defence of a castle. Even today, there is a Constable of the Tower of London.

See also

fr:Connétable nl:Connétable pt:Condestável de Portugal sv:Connétable


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