Constables

Massachusetts

The jurisdiction of Constables in Massachusetts is, in some cases, limited to the cities and towns in which they are appointed or elected, with limited exceptions. Constables usually serve civil process, they may however, serve both civil and criminal process and also enforce capias arrest warrants. M.G.L. c. 41 s. 98 provides the chief and other police officers of all cities and towns shall have all the powers and duties of constables except serving and executing civil process, allowing them to exercise common law arrest powers, state police are given the same powers throughout the commonwealth under M.G.L. c. 25 s. 97. Although the service of civil process makes up a major portion of their duties Massachusetts Constables have broad law enforcement authority. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court stated in Harley v. Granville supra, "the general duties of a Constable are to be vigilant to preserve the peace, to prevent the commission of crime and to arrest all offenders who might be arrested without a warrant and to procure warrants in other instances of crimes committed." Hartley also states, Constables "are not expected to devote a considerable portion of their time to the work of their office or to quit his ordinary occupation to act as a detective and search for offenders. In this regard they stand on a basis quite different from the members of an organized police force." The Municipal Police Institute, now the MCJTC, issue a report in May 1977, on the powers of constables noting that modern police not only evolved from constables but they derive their common law powers arrest from constables, also stating "Constables still possess extensive law enforcement powers to this day."

A constable requires an extensive knowledge of civil law, and the criminal law aspects that may arise from civil law violations. In this regard courts prefer constable to handle these matters rather than police officers as they can execute both civil and criminal process.

A constable is, however, a public peace officer and requires a bond as condition for faithful performance of their duties, and M.G.L. c. 23 s. 1 and 8 provides for their bond to be put in suit for failure to perform their duties by persons so aggrieved.