MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – The murder arrest of Constable Larry Sheffield has a lot of people talking about constables, what they do and how they’re elected.
Getting elected constable may be a lot easier than you think. According to the head of Mobile Probate Court, all you have to do is wait for the general election to roll around.
For most elected officials, the road to public service includes months of campaigning, primary elections, debates and a list of qualifying requirements.
That’s not the route Sheffield took to become constable for Precinct 24. According to the certification rules from the 2012 election, Sheffield simply wrote his name on the ballot.
His vote, and two others, landed him a position with the oldest law enforcement group in the state.
“There are a lot of the constable positions in Mobile County where nobody qualifies for it, then someone will come along and write themselves in and vote for themselves and have some other people vote for themselves, and they get elected constable,” said Probate Judge Don Davis.
Judge Davis said the write-in candidates avoid a lot of qualifying requirements.
“If you go the write-in route, you don’t have to file any fair campaign practice act forms, you don’t have to file an ethics form as a candidate with the Alabama Ethics Commission, you don’t have to pay a qualifying fee to the local party you avoid all of that,” he added.
Even though they may not have very many votes to get into office, Darrell Carter, the president of the Mobile County Constable Association, said constables have all the same law enforcement privileges as any other officer or deputy in the state.
“When you look at the Alabama Code 15 10-1 it specifies who in Alabama has powers of arrest. Along with the sheriff, the other law enforcement entities that it lists it also lists constables as having the exact same powers of arrests,” Carter explained.
Carter said the number of votes to get into office make no difference.
“That is the election process, and it’s the responsibility of the state and federal government. The law is the law where elections are concerned,” he said.
Right now, there are possibly more constables than precincts in Mobile County. That’s because the county commission eliminated 10 precincts earlier in 2014.
Judge Davis said right now, no one seems to know what will happen to the elected constables who no longer have precincts.