Constables are not “police officers” who can collectively bargain says 4th Court of Appeals

Wolff, et al v Deputy Constables Association of Bexar County, 04-13-00080-CV (Tex. App. – San Antonio, July 17, 2013).

This is a statutory construction case brought by interlocutory appeal regarding the right of employees to collectively bargain under Chapter 174 of the Texas Local Government Code. Without much of a factual background the San Antonio Court of Appeals took a literal approach as to which public employees can collectively bargain. Bexar County, through its officials, would not provide collective bargaining recognition to the deputy constables of the County.

In Texas, “police officers” have the right to organize and bargain collectively with their public employer as defined under Texas Local Government Code Chapter 174. TEX. LOCAL GOV’T CODE ANN. §174.023 (West 2008 & Supp. 2012). Under the Act, only firefighters and “police officers” have standing to assert the right to collectively bargain. According to Section 174.003, a “police officer” is (1) a paid employee who is (2) sworn, (3) certified, (4) full-time, and (5) who regularly serves in a professional law enforcement capacity in the police department of a political subdivision. TEX. LOCAL GOV’T CODE ANN. §174.003 (West 2008). Appellate courts have determined the Sheriff’s Office to be the “police department” of a county.

Citing to City of San Antonio v. San Antonio Park Rangers Ass’n, 850 S.W.2d 189, 192–93 (Tex. App—San Antonio 1992, writ denied), the court noted that constables do not work “in the police department” of the County and therefore have no right to collectively bargain. As a result, the trial court was without jurisdiction to hear the Deputy Constables Association’s challenge to compel bargaining.

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