SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County constables and commissioners are at odds after commissioners proposed a budget that will cut deputy constable positions.
Some commissioners view the reduction from a funding perspective, while constables and some community members view it as a threat to their community involvement.
The budget proposal started in 2016, when commissioners were looking at cutting 32 deputy constable positions total.
In 2017, they cut 16 positions out of that number.
This year, they are proposing cutting 15, which Precinct 3 Commissioner Kevin Wolff said would cost the county $800,000 to $1 million to fund each year.
The goal is to reallocate the money to the sheriff’s office. Wolff said officials are looking at adding 16 more positions to the sheriff's office.
Wolff said the reason behind the proposed cuts is due to the decrease in workload when it comes down to serving papers and JP bailiff duty.
Each constable deputy was expected to deliver 2,315 papers each.
Pct. 1: 1,350 papers per deputy delivered
Pct. 2: 951 papers per deputy delivered
Pct. 3: 1,277 papers per deputy delivered
Pct. 4: 1,484 papers per deputy delivered
Precinct 1 Constable Ruben Tejeda said the numbers documented do not represent all of the work they do. He said they perform extra duties needed to protect their community but receive no credit for them.
Tejeda feels these cuts would increase the workload for their office tremendously.
Breakdown of how the proposed deputy constable cuts would affect each precinct:
Pct.1: 21 deputy constables reduced to 17
Pct. 2: 17 deputy constables reduced to 12
Pct. 3: 15 deputy constables reduced to 12
Pct. 4: 16 deputy constables reduced to 13
Total deputy constables across all precincts: 69 deputy constables reduced to 54
Wolff said if the cuts are approved, there are several other opportunities available for those who may lose their jobs as a deputy constable:
60 open detention center positions
28 law enforcement positions in the sheriff’s office; 16 more positions to be added to the department
The proposal will be voted on Sept. 11, with public hearings for input scheduled to be held until that date.
"We are not cutting dollars from the budget,” Wolff said. “We are reallocating those dollars to law enforcement activities — patrolling those neighborhoods, patrolling those schools, making sure people are following the law like they should.”
“How can you put a figure on safety? That is where I am getting at,” Tejeda said. “Right now, with a lot of things going on, there are many policemen that are retiring, deputy sheriffs that are retiring. There are not enough officers. The county wants us to stick to our core duties. Don't be messing around with DWIs and other things unless there is a danger. It is at the discretion of the officer? Because if you don't do anything, then you can get in trouble.”
Community residents weighed in on the issue, writing several letters to the Bexar County Commissioners Court. One letter stated:
“The service our constables provide to us is invaluable,” the Precinct 1 resident said.
“I do hear about this issue in the community. It is organic. It is real,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Tommy Calvert said. “They care about the constables. They’re the friendly law enforcement that they come in contact with that they can call on. They're there for the community.”