The offices of Constable and Sheriff were imported to the United States during colonial times. In 1651, the colony of Virginia had an appointed/elected Sheriff which included a volunteer posse. The American colonies also had Constables and most were volunteer peace officers appointed by the village leaders. Like their British counterparts, they were responsible for keeping the peace and arresting law breakers who were brought before the justice of the peace. Some of the other  duties of the Plymouth, Massachusetts Constable in 1634 were weights and measures, surveyor and announcing marriages. During the war of 1812, a Maryland posse of volunteer citizen Peace Officers arrested several British soldiers for disorderly conduct and placed them in the custody of the sheriff. The leader of the posse was captured and imprisoned by the British on a warship. One of the negotiators for his release was Francis Scott Key. The first Peace Officer to be killed in

the line of duty was Constable Darius Quimby of New York. Constable Quimby was gunned down in 1791.

He was most likely an unpaid Peace Officer.


As America moved West, so did reserve Peace Officers. There were posses of volunteer Peace Officers that worked for the Sheriff. There were per diem (per day) part-time Deputies, Constables and Marshals. It was not unusual for a person to get a one-day appointment as a Deputy Sheriff, Constable or Marshal to find a lawbreaker and bring him to justice. Teddy Roosevelt was a part-time Deputy Sheriff. There were special US Deputy Marshals, appointed by the U.S. Marshal. Special Deputy Marshals worked for a  pittance and sometimes for nothing to protect the citizens in the territories (which were not yet states) from roving bands of outlaws and to administer justice for the US courts and judges. Many of these volunteer and part time lawmen died in the line of duty.




Copyright © 2017 Massachusetts Constable's Office

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