Citizens complain about Cocke County Constable

Citizens complain about Cocke County constables

Posted:
"As far as him coming into my district, it doesn't bother me, but it bothers people in my district, it bothers people in his district," said Constable Mcree Whitten. "As far as him coming into my district, it doesn't bother me, but it bothers people in my district, it bothers people in his district," said Constable Mcree Whitten.
Cates says constables Derek Wright and Jimmy Roach have set up speed traps and issued citations on a stretch of Interstate 40. Cates says constables Derek Wright and Jimmy Roach have set up speed traps and issued citations on a stretch of Interstate 40.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

NEWPORT (WATE) - Leaders in Cocke County are considering reexamining the county's constable system.  

Constables are elected law enforcement officers. They don't draw a salary. Instead they're paid based on the number of tickets they write or warrants they serve.

The scrutiny comes after at least one complaint to the Cocke County Legislative Body.

Harold Cates owns a gas station at the Hartford exit on I-40 in Cocke County.

Cates says constables Derek Wright and Jimmy Roach have set up speed traps and issued citations on a stretch of the interstate between the Exit 443 and the North Carolina border.  

"That's where the speed limit is 55 miles per hour and there is no car that goes 55. Every car that goes on this interstate will exceed 55 miles per hour, and they can catch them as fast as they can write tickets," said Cates.

By law, constables get a partial kickback for issuing citations, making arrests, and serving court summons. A constable in Tennessee gets $27.50 for writing a speeding ticket.   

Constable Wright represents the Second District, located around Parrottsville.

Even though he is legally allowed to operate in other districts, First District Constable McRee Whitten says it's not something he would do.  

Whitten represents the district around Hartford where Derek Wright made his citations.  

"As far as him coming into my district, it doesn't bother me, but it bothers people in my district. It bothers people in his district," said Whitten.  

Cocke County citizens have complained about constables Wright and Roach. Many residents took their complaints to Cocke County's Legislative Body's meeting on Monday.

"I think it's fair to say there's a lot of folks in county government who are not pleased, based on the response from the citizens," said Cocke County Attorney Carter Moore.

Wright also serves a full time Newport police officer. Newport Police Chief Maurice Shults says he's received dozens of complaints about Wright.

The legislative body could choose to ban constables or limit their power.

"The vast majority of constables in the county are not causing any trouble and are doing a fine job for the community. And they're afraid they might be punishing the body of constables for the alleged actions of one or two, "said Moore.  

6 News reached out to Constable Derek Wright, but he declined to comment.

The Legislative Body's Public Safety Committee will take up the issue at its next meeting. The meeting date has not yet been set.

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