WHAS11 investigates Jefferson County's controversial constable



Posted on August 15, 2009 at 6:43 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 13 at 6:23 PM

(WHAS11) -It's an elected office you probably don't know much about-the constable.

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But the position has been around for 159 years in Kentucky.

In the commonwealth, constables have virtually the same arrest powers as sheriffs, but no official duties and no required training.

Since taking office in 2007, Jefferson County Constable David Whitlock has tried to raise the profile of his office, while other law enforcement departments have worked to stop him.

Whitlock patrols Jefferson County in his personal police-style car, using the badge, gun, uniform, and laptop computer he bought himself.

"I've always had a love for law enforcement. I've always wanted to work in the community," says Whitlock.

He pays rent out of his own pocket for an office in a Dixie Highway shopping center, where he makes his rounds.

Elected in 2006, Constable Whitlock is paid only $100 a month by Louisville Metro Government.

The constable position has been around in Kentucky since 1850, when the office was first established by the state constitution.

Back then, he was the main peace officer for the entire county, and he had a long list of duties.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's office and the Louisville Metro Police Department say they already have enough well-trained officers.

"He's a wannabe," says Lt. Col. Carl Yates. "And the last thing we need out here is a bunch of wannabes carrying badges and guns."< /p>

Past Jefferson County Constables sometimes served civil papers or verified 911 addresses.

It was that way for 20 years in Whitlock's district, but things are changing.

Whitlock also checks in on businesses and writes parking and speeding tickets

Some appreciate his efforts, while others certainly do not.

Thomas Smith is one of the 25 people Whitlock has given a speeding ticket, even though Whitlock has no training from the state in radar enforcement.

Whitlock earns the majority of his income by performing "off duty" contract security work for businesses about 30 hours a week.

Yet he has still found time to write more than 200 citations.

The majority of those citations involve handicapped parking or fire lane violations, which carry $100 fines.

Whitlock isn't paid for writing these citations, but he wants to be.

In other counties, constables get up to $10 dollars per ticket.

The Sheriff's Office and LMPD have refused to allow Whitlock access to their radio channels or use of the county's e-warrant system, despite Whitlock's protests

"I don't think any professional law enforcement agency is going to perpetuate something we feel is unprofessional. So we are not going to cooperate," explains Lt. Col. Yates.

Because the county received complaints about Whitlock's aggressive enforcement, the Metro Council took away his right to use blue lights and sirens.

Metro Government has also denied him the ability to appoint deputies, but if you look at the constable office's website, you might not know that.

It shows a complex command structure including patrol, administrative services, and internal affairs divisions.

Whitlock says the people on his site are volunteers.

Brent Choate is a convicted felon.

He is also listed as the Detective Sergeant of the Internal Affairs Division and is even a state director of the Kentucky Constable's Association, an organization in which Whitlock serves as executive director.

Choate was convicted of theft after he admitted stealing two satellite radios valued at $10,000 dollars from the National Guard.

And Whitlock's background isn't squeaky clean either.

He pleaded guilty to a felony in 2002, after allegedly stealing $6,000 worth of equipment from Yellow Ambulance Service, where he worked as a paramedic.

Whitlock gave the equipment to Dixie Suburban Fire Department, where he volunteered.

The felony was erased from Whitlock's record after he completed a diversion program.

In 1999, Whitlock was also accused of taking money and items from Louisville Search and Rescue, where he was a director.

Whitlock agreed in civil court to pay the non-profit organization back $1,000, but what concerns other law enforcement officers even more than his past thefts is Whitlock's lack of training.

Many of his certificates were issued by Whitlock's own Constable Association.

Whitlock says the organization has to provide training, since local agencies won't allow him to participate in their classes

"They deny us training," says Whitlock. "They say, 'No, we don't want your liability. We're not gonna train you.' But yet they're the ones bellyaching because we're not trained."

Records indicate Whitlock has never applied for basic training at the Department of Criminal Justice Training, where Kentucky police officers and deputies are educated.

He doesn't have to under state rules.

Whitlock has completed 96 hours of continuing education classes at the academy, far short of the more than 1,000 hours of training most recruits complete before being certified.

Whitlock says he hopes to change local agencies' attitudes.

"It would be nice to go down to Louisville Metro's shooting range and practice shooting my handgun, you know," he says.

But that is something Louisville Metro Police says won't happen.

"The more they do to me and try to limit me, the more stuff I get and explore and I'm gonna do," warns Whitlock. "I'll go out and get my own river patrol next week. They can't stop me. I'm a constitutional officer. I can go out and police."

Whitlock has a year-and-a half to go before he faces re-election.

The constable issue has been argued in committees in Frankfort, but has never come to a vote.

The Kentucky Constable Association is asking for Homeland Security grant money and the ability to serve criminal warrants.

Individual legislators have also supported legislation to eliminate constables in Kentucky's largest metropolitan regions.