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Politics & Government

Training Starts for County Constables

About 35 Allegheny County constables attended the first of three mandatory training sessions Thursday designed to teach the officers how to properly process their payments.

An audit by County Controller Chelsa Wagner’s office last year found some constables received payments from the courts and the county for the same job. There were 33 duplicates between January 2012 and June 2013, totaling $1,618.02.

“There really had never been any sort of consistent directive to the constables as to how they should be submitting payment,” Wagner said. “And, they’re very unique in terms of our local law enforcement structure because they work as independent contractors.”

Constables first charge the courts for their services, including transporting prisoners and delivering arrest warrants. If the courts don’t collect fees from the defendants, the officers go to the county for their payments.

According to Wagner, a lack of coordination between the two government computer systems allowed constables to submit the same fee voucher twice.

“In any industry, you might have a handful or a couple people who don’t follow the rules,” she said, “but overall…they know that our office respects them and wants to make sure that we give them the right tools so that they can do their job in the best manner possible.”

About $58,000 in duplicate payments have been recovered since last year’s audit.

Paul Bauer, president of the Allegheny County Constables’ Association, said training sessions such as these should be held annually to ensure officers are up-to-date with their procedures.

“The constables, overall, are fine with it,” he said. “It’s like any other entity. In order to have things run smoothly, training is necessary.”

To clarify how much a constable is able to charge, Wagner said each officer who attends the training session will receive an updated handbook.

“We’re not trying to demonize them,” Wagner said. “We see the difficult circumstances with which they deal, both in terms of their jobs and also, in terms of how they collect the appropriate fees and all of that miscommunication and misdirection.”

About 110 of the county’s 180 constables have registered for training. Those who don’t attend the classes will receive information packets in the mail, according to Wagner.

Additional training sessions will be held Feb. 26 and March 5 in the County Courthouse’s Gold Room.