A Mobile County Constable in the Tanner Williams area was arrested for impersonating a police officer Wednesday night after he allegedly tried to arrest someone unlawfully.
According to the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office, Jeffrey Melton Morris — an elected constable in Precinct 21 — was arrested around 9 p.m., July 11, on charges of unlawful imprisonment and impersonating a peace officer.
He has since been released from the Mobile County Metro Jail after posting bail.
It’s not Morris’ first run-in with local law enforcement, though. Court records indicate he was charged with three counts of domestic violence last year. Police said Morris allegedly assaulted two women on Aug. 3, 2017, both of whom claimed to be his girlfriend.
He was also previously charged with assault in 2003 and received a DUI in 2009.
According to MCSO spokeswoman Lori Myles, Morris pulled a motorist over who he claimed was “following too close” and contacted the MCSO back up on the traffic violation.
According to deputies, Morris initially lied and claimed he only “blinked the headlights” on his marked vehicle to initiate the traffic stop — denying that his vehicle was equipped with blue lights.
However, when deputies asked to see his lights, Morris changed his story. He confessed to having blue lights and told police he’d used them during this traffic stop.
The man Morris pulled over was Stephen Oroso, who Myles said happened to have an active warrant for violating his
probation at the time. Orso wasn’t arrested during the incident, but his probation officer was contacted.
Myles said Orso is expected to turn himself into custody at Metro Jail within 48 hours,
While state code gives constables arresting authority, the vast majority of jails and law enforcement agencies across Alabama don’t recognize that authority at all.
According to Section 15-10-1 of the State Code of Alabama, “An arrest may be made, under a warrant or without a warrant, by any sheriff or other officer acting as sheriff or his deputy, or by any constable, acting within their respective counties.”
Yet, despite that, there’s been much confusion around the subject and constables in general for a number of years.
Myles noted that there’s been controversy about constables’ place in Alabama law enforcement for years, and said this most recent incident with Morris stems directly from that.
“There’s been the question for a while: Is he or is he not a peace officer?. Under the state title, he is, but we don’t accept him nor do we accept arrests from anyone who isn’t APOSTC certified,” Myles said. “When he put that guy in handcuffs, where was he going to take him? We weren’t ever going to take him.”
With his most recent arrest, Morris adds to the list of charges a handful of local constables have faced in recent years. Since 2012, at least six current or former Mobile County Constables have been charged and convicted for crimes ranging from murder to federal firearms violations.
Since 2014, the Mobile County District Attorney’s office has successfully removed at least two constables from office after they received felony criminal convictions in court.
Updated at 1:05 p.m., July 12, to include additional information from the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office.