BEXAR COUNTY, Texas – Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela's high profile and tumultuous work week has also raised the profile of the often-overlooked constable's office.
There are four elected constables in Bexar County, each in charge of a precinct. Much of what they and their deputy constables do revolves around serving paperwork, handling evictions and providing security for Justice of the Peace courts.
In the fiscal year ending Sep. 30, the four precincts combined served 62,379 warrants and civil processes, according to Bexar County's proposed budget for FY 2020.
To Precinct 3 Constable Mark Vojvodich, there's no question their offices are necessary.
"We serve a purpose that is a niche area in law enforcement and in civil," Vojvodich said.
Deputy constables are peace officers, like police or sheriff's deputies, and while Vojvodich said his deputies' duties don't generally include patrolling, investigations or answering service calls, they can all happen.
"If we run across another crime where we have somebody that's got drugs or weapons or a DWI, we don't let them go we make the arrests and we protect the community," Vojvodich said.
Combined, the four precincts' budgets total close to $7.8 million, with 92 full-time positions, including the four elected constables. Of those positions, 71 are deputy constables or chief deputy constables.
Not everyone thinks the constable position is needed anymore.
"If it was up to me, there wouldn't be one constable left in this county or anywhere else. It's a duplication of what the Sheriff's Office would do. It's a relic of the past that's stuck in the (Texas) Constitution," Wolff said, also noting the county had no authority to eliminate any of the four precincts.
Even if the offices were eliminated, Vojvodich said, their job would still need to get done, and having them replaced by sheriff's deputies wouldn't make fiscal sense.
"At the current rate for the Sheriff's Office, you would pay 47% more in wages, taxes, benefits, retirement benefits," he said.
Vojvodich also said constables are the closest level of law enforcement to the community.
"You can come out to Precinct 3 and talk to me any day of the week. You can't do that with other elected officials," he said.