County Council officially requests constable certification for Sheriff, deputies

sheriff constable certification

Sussex County Sheriff Robert Lee addresses County Council on constable certification.

GEORGETOWN – Serving court papers and conducting Sheriff’s sales for non-payment of taxes, mortgage foreclosures and all other court orders are designated duties of the Sussex County Sheriff’s Office.

As commissioned constables, the Sheriff and deputies also are empowered to protect life and property.

At the June 2 meeting, Sussex County Council approved council’s letter to the Board of Examiners formally requesting constable certification of Sheriff Lee and each sheriff deputy in his office.

“What the state constable’s commission allows us to do is to protect Sussex Countians on a personal on-view type of situation, if it was to occur,” said Sheriff Robert T. Lee.  “A good example would be: I came to your house to serve you with a legal paper. Someone else in the house was there; they became enraged at you and they struck you. At that point we could take that person into custody because we saw this happen during the performance of our duties. And then they are turned over to the jurisdiction that is involved in that area.”

County Administrator Todd Lawson said he was informed May 21 by Peggy Anderson, licensing specialist for the Delaware State Police, that at the May 1 meeting of the Board of Examiners it was determined that the board needed an updated request letter from the Sussex County Council regarding the constable certification for Sheriff Robert Lee.

“As you know upon his election, Mr. Lee went through the process of receiving his new constable commission for himself and each of his deputies. As a result they have had their certification since the beginning of 2015,” said Mr. Lawson. “At that time the board did not think it was necessary to have an updated letter from the council. But since then their position has changed. This is a simply a quick procedural motion to send a letter to the Board of Examiners to state that the council approves of the Sheriff and his deputies receiving their constable commission.”

In last November’s election, Sheriff Lee by a slim margin unseated Sheriff Jeffrey Christopher, whose tenure was punctuated by battles with County leaders and the state and legal challenges in his campaign to arm the Sheriff and deputies with power to make arrests.

“We are not a law enforcement agency. We do not want to be a law enforcement agency,” said Sheriff Lee. “What we would be is a witness, but we would still have the right to protect our citizens and protect property.”

County Councilman Rob Arlett, R-Frankford, requested follow-up clarification “so the public can understand what this means. I think that a lot of people really do not understand what this means.”

“As a constable, here in the County, you have the ability to, I guess … handcuff, if there is a situation?” said Mr. Arlett.

“Yes,” Sheriff Lee said.

“You have the ability to detain someone,” said County Council president Michael Vincent, R-Seaford.

“That is correct,” Sheriff Lee said.

Sheriff Lee likened constable certification to “a tool on a carpenter’s belt. A hammer is used for hammering but it isn’t use for measuring. A pencil is not used for hammering but it is used for a mark. This is just one tool of the sheriff’s arsenal of things that they do.”

In addition, Sheriff Lee said the state constable’s office continues to give the Sheriff’s office a professional agency that we are involved in for training and firearms certification three times a year as well as certification in the taser instrument, baton, pepper spray and handcuffing.

“You wouldn’t think that that is a big deal but it is a big deal in today’s world as far as perception and what is going on,” said Sheriff Lee.

“But the No. 1 important part of what state constable does; it protects our people and protects our property,” said Sheriff Lee. “It is just a tool. It is not to be law enforcement. It is to protect.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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