Constables are an integral part of the Justice Court system in the State of Arizona. The Constable is an elected official who serves as the Executive Branch of the Courts. Constables are empowered to serve all process given to them by the Justice of the Peace or other competent authority. The process includes service of criminal and civil subpoenas and summonses, writs of restitution (eviction orders), writs of execution (orders to collect judgments), writs of replevin (orders to seize property), orders of protection and injunctions against harassment as well as any other orders from the courts. Constables may also be involved in the sale of seized property and summoning jurors for trials.
Constables who are elected by voters within their judicial precincts are able to provide timely and cost efficient service by working directly with the courts in their local communities to ensure the court's orders are served.
The Arizona Constables Association serves its members by offering professional training to enable them to perform their duties. The Association holds a minimum of two training seminars per year at which time training and updates are provided that comply with requirements mandated by state law.
CONSTABLES IN HISTORY
Welcome to our history of the constable. We have prepared an in depth look at how constables began, important events in constable history and information about some of the first constables in Arizona.
The history of the constable was edited by Ryan Reinhold, Constable of Precinct Six, Navajo County, Arizona.
Enrique “Henry” Gárfias on the left, c. 1880
Phoenix Police Museum
Enrique “Henry” Gárfias was an early Phoenix community leader, and the first Hispanic to hold an elected office in the city. Gárfias was born in Mexico, and grew up in California. He came to Phoenix in 1874. Four years later he ran for town constable and won, defeating several Anglo candidates. His duties included serving legal notices and assisting in operations of the peace court. In 1881, Gárfias ran for the position of Phoenix’s first city marshal. Once elected, his duties included assessor, tax collector, road commissioner, dog catcher, and zanjero, in addition to law enforcement. He held this office until 1886, and was popular with Anglo and Mexican residents. He developed a reputation as a tough lawman who always caught the criminals. He married Elena Redondo in 1883, originally of Yuma. They had two children, and she died in childbirth after the third. Gárfias remarried in 1891.He also owned cattle at Castle Hot Springs, served as the editor of the El Progreso del Valle newspaper (owned by José Luis Redondo, his father-in-law), and provided services as a language interpreter. In 1892, the Phoenix city directory lists him as living at Papago (3rd Avenue) and Jefferson Streets. Gárfias died in 1896. The Phoenix Herald memorialized him, remarking that he “gave the greatest satisfaction to the citizens of Phoenix. He was brave and conscientious and never failed in his duty no matter how danger menaced him.”
(see original for full citation listing)
This article and image is from the City of Phoenix's Hispanic Historic Property Survey which can be found under Establishing a Community
or directly from the pdf.
Al Frederick became Constable of the unincorporated town of Scottsdale circa 1920, and served in the post until his death in May 1950. For three decades, Frederick was the only lawman in Scottsdale, and helped many Scottsdale youth see the value in a law-abiding lifestyle. After his death, his wife, Ivy Donn Frederick, became Constable, at the time one of only two female law enforcement officers in the state of Arizona.
In 1882, a Tombstone constable stopped a gunslinger from killing Wyatt Earp; coincidentally, Earp himself was a former constable. Here are the facts; convicted murderer Johnny Ringo, a friend of the infamous John Wesley Hardin (who was later shot by Texas Constable John Selman) was accused of a stage coach hold-up in Cochise County.
Ringo was also a cousin to the Younger Brothers; and even more interestingly, he was a cousin to the James Brothers (outlaw Jesse James) as well. After the OK Corral gunfight in Tombstone, in which William Clanton and the McLaury brothers were killed on October 26, 1881, Ringo was a leader of the anti-Earp forces. On January 17, 1882, he challenged Wyatt Earp, gunman John H. (Doc) Holliday, and other members of the Earp gang to a street fight.
When Ringo met Wyatt Earp and his gang on the dusty streets of Tombstone, he immediately wanted to fight. He was only stopped by a quick-acting Tombstone Constable who grabbed him from behind and thus preventing bloodshed. Oddly, constables figured prominently in the lives of the Earp gang. Wyatt Earp had been elected constable in Lamar, Missouri before he left there for Tombstone; and Wyatt’s brother, Virgil Earp, was the Constable in Prescott. Source: “No Rest for the Wicked” by Troy Taylor (2001); Jack Burrows, John Ringo: The Gunfighter Who Never Was (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1987).
Gila County Constable Miles L. Wood arrested Billy the Kid in 1876. Here's how it happened -- William H. Bonner, "Billy the Kid", rode into Gila County in the spring of 1876. On March 19 he stole a horse belonging to Pvt. Charles Smith at old Camp Goodwin and traveled to Camp Grant hoping for "the chance to make money at the gaming tables at a saloon near Camp Grant."
Just off the military reservation a community of dance halls, drinking establishments and worse sprang up in a locale that came to be known as the community of Bonita, named after Henry C. Hooker's Sierra Bonita Ranch to the south of that location. Billy stole more horses near Bonita and was tracked to the mining district north of Globe, Arizona. The military recovered the horses and left but did not bother to bring Billy in.
Returning to Camp Grant, Billy and his thieving companion, John R. Mackie, stole three horses at Cedar Springs (February 16, 1877). Another chase ensued and Billy was caught and was being returned to Camp Grant when he escaped, a trick he practiced well. When Billy came into Camp Grant for breakfast one morning, Constable Miles L. Wood charged him with horse theft and arrested him. After another escape attempt the constable had the camp blacksmith, Frank "Windy" Cahill, rivet shackles onto Billy's ankles. Imprisoned in a poorly constructed guardhouse, Billy crawled through a ventilation hole and escaped wearing his leg irons.
Several months later, Billy returned to one of the saloons just off the military carrying a six-shooter stuffed in his trousers. Billy went into Atkins's Cantina, pulled out his pistol and shot Cahill in the belly. Billy ran outside, mounted the fastest horse within eyesight and departed the area, never to be seen in Arizona again. Later he would be shot dead by New Mexico Sheriff Pat Garrett. Justice of the Peace Alejandro Seguro formed a coroner's jury, viewed the body, and concluded that the killing was justifiable.
Source: Jerry Weddle, editor of The Lincoln County Wars; Bell Boze, Bell The Illustrated Life and Times of Billy the Kid Second Edition, Tri-Star-Boze Productions, Inc. 1996; Nolan, Frederick The West of Billy the Kid University of Oklahoma Press, Norman 1998; Nolan, Frederick Pat Garrett's The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman 2000.
In 1938, Wes Bolin was elected constable of the West Phoenix Precinct. He then served as Justice of the Peace in that precinct from 1942 to 1948, when he entered the Democratic primary race for Secretary of State. With his record-breaking longevity -- almost 30 years -- as secretary of state, Bolin earned a national reputation as a political leader. He was appointed Governor of Arizona in October 1977; he died of a heart attack while in office. Source: Goff, John F. Arizona Biographical Dictionary. Black Mountain Press. Cave Creek, Arizona 1983.
In 1885, the Board of Supervisors appointed Frank J. Wattron as the constable of Holbrook. The next year he was elected Navajo County Sheriff. To fill the vacancy, the Board of Supervisors appointed three constables for the precinct of Holbrook to take Wattron's place presumably because of the frequent gunfights on the dusty streets. The infamous Bucket of Blood saloon was next door to Wattron's own drugstore and bar. While serving as Sheriff, Wattron gained notoriety for sending this invitation to local officials: "You are hereby cordially invited to attend the hanging of one: George Smiley, Murderer. His soul will be swung into eternity on Dec. 8, 1899, at 2 o'clock p.m. sharp. The latest improved methods in the art of scientific strangulation will be employed and everything possible will be done to make the surroundings cheerful and the execution a success." Source: Navajo County Historical Society.
On January 6, 1894, Prescott Constable Louis C. Miller, shot Prescott Police Chief Miles Archibald. Seems the constable had arrested a suspect on a warrant but the Police Chief took exception and during an argument that ensued Archibald was shot at least twice. Other notable constables: Nathan Parda Pierce, on June 3, 1868, was elected as the first Prescott Constable. In 1878, Virgil Earp, brother of famous Wyatt Earp, was operating a sawmill when he was elected Constable of the Prescott Precinct. Source: City of Prescott Police Dept. historical records.
In 1922, Constable R. L. McDonald climbed up the side of Tempe Butte, armed with a Winchester rifle, and arrested Bill and Babe Lawrence who had fled there after the murder of a deputy sheriff and a highway patrolman. Bill was later sentenced to death by hanging. McDonald received a $2500 reward, a princely sum in those days. Source: Arizona Republican newspaper-1924.
In 1860, there was very little law in Tucson. The population was 623 people. It was not uncommon for one man to shoot down another in the street. The residents decided that they had all of the lawlessness they could take. They adopted a code of laws and appointed Juan Elias as constable and Charles Meyer as justice of the peace. On May 8, 1864, Tucson residents appointed Jose Veremende constable and Charles Meyer, the local druggist, as justice of the peace. The two instituted a chain gang, which proved to be of enormous benefit toward maintaining the cleanliness and good repair of the town. A police department was founded in 1871; at the time, the corporate limits of Tucson were one square mile in size and the population was 3,200 people. Later that year, the first town marshal was appointed at a salary of $20 per month.
Tempe Constable Cresencio "Chris" Sigala Sr., born 1874 in Sonora. He also was a Tempe school truant officer. He played football for the Normal School (now ASU), was a typesetter for the Tempe Daily News, a grocery owner, one of the founders of Liga Protectora Latina, and a National Guard officer. He was active in Maricopa County politics and friend of Judge Fred Struckmeyer Jr. who later became an Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice. Sigala's father worked for Carl T. Hayden who served Arizona for more than 50 years in Congress as a Democratic U.S. senator and representative. Source: Tempe Historical Museum
Henry Harrison "Harry" McPhaul moved to Yuma around 1897 and became constable. He also served as a guard at the Yuma Territorial Prison; a deputy sheriff and Yuma town marshal. He was the only Yuma resident who ever became an Arizona Ranger. He spent many years prospecting for gold and silver on his land near the Dome Bridge on the Gila River near Yuma. The bridge was eventually officially renamed McPhaul Bridge in his honor; it was the longest suspension bridge in Arizona at 798 feet and remained in service until 1968. Source: Yuma Sun newspaper
Everett Bowman, Constable in Wickenburg was its first and most famous cowboy winning 6 world rodeo championships in 1937. A multi-dimensional person, he was known throughout the west as the mule trainer, a pilot, a rancher, a member of the Arizona Highway Patrol, and Maricopa County Deputy Sheriff.
Hubert "Bert" Lauzon served as a constable for Coconino County from 1922 to 1928. He kept a home on the south rim of the Grand Canyon where he was employed as caretaker of the Bright Angel Trail and Constable. He became a National Park Service Ranger in 1928.
About 1915, Chester Cummins served several terms as Constable of the Tempe precinct. During one of Governor Hunt's administrations, Cummins was captain of the guards at the Arizona State Prison. He was also the Tempe Town Marshal. He lived at 839 S. Farmer Avenue in a board-and-batten house built in 1903 which is still standing today. Source: Tempe Historical Museum
In 1878, Virgil Earp, who had already started a sawmill, and worked part time as Deputy Sheriff, was elected Constable of the Prescott Precinct. He and his wife Allie owned a saw mill at Thumb Butte. Allie was also a midwife and Virgil also drove the mail by horse drawn wagon. Virgil was visited there by his brothers Wyatt and Morgan Earp. Later, Virgil was appointed city marshal of Tombstone in 1880; he sent for his brothers who joined him in the frontier town. The Earps were made famous by the Gun Fight at the O.K. Corral.
Ambushed by the Clanton Gang, Virgil was shot in the back in December 1881, which crippled him for life. Virgil was taken to the family homestead in Colton, California where he recovered from his wounds and prospected for gold and silver with his wife. Later, Virgil was elected city marshal of Colton.
About 1946, Ed Echols was constable for Precinct 2. In 1907 he had traveled with the Miller Brothers Wild West Show. At the Calgary Stampede of 1912, he roped his third steer of the day in 23.45 seconds for a world record. He also did a stint with a Wild West show touring Europe. Through such rootin' tootin' exhibitions, Ed got to know two of this country's most famous celluloid cowhands: Tom Mix and Will Rogers.
During an election he got some help from Will Rogers. Seems that Rogers agreed to steal some time away from movie-making in Hollywood to do a little campaigning for his old pal. After directing his pilot on where to land, Rogers praised the absent Echols in front of a crowd that had obligingly gathered and then he got back in his plane and headed for the Coast.
Once the election was over, the loser - ever gracious in defeat - wrote to Rogers: "It was swell of you to do that for me, Will. But the hell of it was, they throwed out all them votes you corralled for me. You landed in Cochise County instead of Pima." Two years later, Ed Echols was elected sheriff, an office he would hold through four more elections. His first official duty as sheriff: lassoing an escaped lion once kept by the University of Arizona.
In 1891, three constables arrested a Tucson businessman for illegally selling tobacco. Don Yan was convicted in justice court of 18 counts of violating an ordinance that prohibited the sale of cigarettes to minors under sixteen (16) years of age. Source: Territory of Arizona v. Don Yan
In November of 1914, about two years after statehood, Charles M. Beckham, was elected one of area's first Constables. The Town Marshal and the County Constable enforced laws in Chandler, along with surrounding areas of his district, including Gilbert. Early on, Beckham solved a burglary at the N.L. Nowell store in Gilbert, where the safe was blown up. Constable Beckham had an honorable career for about ten years but in 1924, he was convicted of aiding and abetting escapees from the Florence State Prison. Source: "Chandler Arizonan" newspaper
Maricopa County created a Scottsdale voting precinct and justice court in 1922. Constable Al Frederick and Justice of the Peace William Kimsey became influential leaders. At that time, a cotton gin had opened on Second Street and Brown Avenue to process Scottsdale-grown Pima cotton, which was in great demand during World War I. Source: The Arizona Republic
First Phoenix Constable:
Rafael Estrada Sr., the city's first constable.
Tempe's First Constable:
Tempe residents selected J. Andrade in 1872 as the town's first constable.
The kind of police Americans knew in the early nineteenth century were descended from the medieval police of England -- a constable who patrolled the city and charged fees for his services. The constable system prevailed until cities grew larger and permanent police were hired. Until 1853, New York relied entirely on constables; Boston until 1859, and Philadelphia 1856 (Pennsylvania still elects state constables).
Constables are active today in many states including: Texas, Tennessee, Arizona, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Vermont, and New York. Source: Samuel Walker, Popular Justice: A History of American Criminal Justice