Special thanks to Advanced Constables Larry Durham and Gerard J. DiStefano for their research and for providing the history of the South Carolina State Constables.
On March 24, 1663 the first Charter for the Province (Colony) of Carolina was granted by Charles II, King of England, to eight of his strongest supporters. This Charter was subsequently enlarged by a new Charter signed on June 30, 1665. This was basically everything from Virginia to Florida.
On March 1, 1669, the Lords Proprietors approved The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, thereby setting out the organization and governance of the colony. Of significance to we State Constables is the establishment of the office of Constable as referenced in item numbers 2,39,40, and 91.
On October 21, 1669, six of the eight Proprietors met and assigned titles/duties to themselves. William Craven, 1st Earl of Craven was assigned as the first High Constable. An office still in the South Carolina Code of Laws as Chief Constable. Thus, laying the foundations with they and their deputies for the present State Constables and their County Constable counterparts.
By 1720, the Crown had appointed a Royal Governor and by 1729 North and South Carolina was owned and governed by the Crown with Constables becoming Royal Colonial Constables instead of Propitiatory Constables.
This leads us to the period of the American Revolution. On March 26, 1776, South Carolina adopted a Constitution and became a republic with John Rutledge as President. The Constable System carried forward into the republic period as well as statehood under the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.
This system remained basically intact until the period of Reconstruction after the War Between the States. During Reconstruction abuses and corruption was rampant. In 1877 the State Constabulary was reorganized during the term of Governor Wade Hampton.
In 1947 the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) was established by Executive Order of then Governor Storm Thurmond at the request of South Carolina Sheriffs, giving birth to the modern-day State Constable in South Carolina. The first State Constables were appointed by the Governor of South Carolina at the recommendation of SLED and were given the title of “SLED Agents” and carried a SLED Agent badge. Since appointees had no formal training, it was mostly a political appointment. This does not mean that none were capable law enforcement officers, as some city police officers were issued commissions; therefore, they could apprehend “lawbreakers” outside their city limits and even in other counties. Keeping with tradition, and to distinguish Constables from professionally employed SLED Agents, the appointment was eventually changed to that of a State Constable.
In 1990 SLED took “another look” at the state’s Constable program. It was determined that all Constable commissions would expire at the end of 1990 with new conditions placed on the renewal of a Constable’s commission. At that time there were approximately four thousand (4000) Constables holding a Commission. To renew the commission, the Constable would be required to attend a 48-hour course of instruction at a State Technical Education College. The course was to comply with the requirements of the Criminal Justice Academy of South Carolina Department of public Safety and SLED. After successful completion of the course, the Constable would be permitted to re-apply for his/her commission and then be re-instated as a constable. As one might imagine, the new requirements thinned the ranks tremendously.
As can be seen, many changes have taken place with the Constable program over its long history. Today, there are three (3) distinct groups of State Constables serving in South Carolina.
Group I Constables – Includes all SC Highway Patrol Troopers (bet you didn’t know that!) and other uniformed police officers or plain clothes investigators for the state with state wide jurisdiction. This includes some federal agencies in case they need to make arrest under state law.
Group II Constables-A commission open to all retired former sworn LE-Officers
Group III Constables-All other commissioned individuals who complete training requirements
Presently, there are approximately 900 commissioned Group III State Constables serving as professionally trained, certified, and sworn law enforcement officers in the State of South Carolina. Group III Constables are now divided between two levels of training, Basic and Advanced Constables. Basic Constable training now consists of 82 plus hours of classroom instruction, including 12 hours of weapon training and qualifications. Individuals who desire to become an Advance Constable must complete the Basic Constable Course, satisfy all prerequisites, and attend an additional 61 hours of Advanced training, after which they must pass an exam given by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy (SCCJA). Additionally, they are required to complete yearly Bloodborne Pathogen (BBP) training, legal updates, Domestic Violence (DV) updates and firearm qualification. This is to ensure that Constables who ride with a full-time officer are well equipped to assist and backup their partner at all times. Constables operate under the rules and regulations of SLED. State Law also specifies that SLED has regulatory authority of State Constables for specifying qualifications, training and general oversight of the State Constable Program including limits on use of their law enforcement authority. Constables act under a wide range of laws and regulations with the intent to help provide an effective and efficient resource of law enforcement personnel for the citizens and agencies of South Carolina. SLED continually updates the standards of the State Constable Program with care to regulate State Constables as they serve the public by helping maintain peace as they have for hundreds of years, but with qualifications, training and standards that meet the current requirements of a law enforcement officer. Whether Basic or Advanced, we who are SC State Constables are proud to be a vital part of the ”Thin Blueline”.
Like our predecessors, all South Carolina State Constables still serve without pay or compensation. Our reward is to give back to our communities and the State of South Carolina while enjoying the comradery of working and serving alongside our brothers and. sisters in blue.