By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- If you ask city police, they'll tell you that constables toting guns and working security at bars are about as genuine as Elvis impersonators on the Las Vegas strip.
Incorporating with the state as a private constable business doesn't mean anything, said Police Chief Robert E. Bush Jr. The chief said he could incorporate a bank or a hospital -- but that's not enough to operate as a bank or a hospital.
Constables, Bush said, were once appointed by county judges and had limited powers within the judge's jurisdiction, such as Austintown.
"These constables think they have arrest and police powers. They don't," Bush said. "It's not even arguable."
If the self-described constables working at city bars, such as Classique Lounge and Patsy's Bar, would obtain guard credentials through the state, "we might not have this problem," the police chief said. Even licensed security guards, he said, can only detain suspects for police.
Although the constable issue has been addressed many times in the past three years -- through arrests and convictions -- the message just hasn't sunk in, the chief said.
These men and and women, arrested at bars in the city in constable uniforms with badges, now face charges of impersonating a police officer:
* Carole Dubose, 60, of Youngstown. Dubose was arrested May 24 and July 13. She is due back in court Wednesday and Aug. 21.
* Ethel Smith, 51, of Youngstown. She is due back in court Aug. 21.
* Curtis M. Bryant Jr., 58, of Youngstown. He is due back in court Monday. In September 2001, he was convicted in municipal court of performing security service without a license and placed on one year probation. The case is under appeal, records show. When arrested July 13, Bryant told the officer, "I'm a cop, just like you."
* Anthony P. Taylor, 42, of Youngstown. He is due back in court Aug. 21.
* Michael Kwasnik, 49, of Hubbard. He's due back in court Wednesday.
Police, working with the U.S. Treasury Department Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms task force, made the arrests.
Evidence collected from Bryant included a .38-caliber handgun and ammunition. No firearms were found on the others, although in a prior interview police had with Dubose and Smith, the women acknowledged being armed.
For a cause
"They don't mind getting arrested and all that -- it's a cause," said La-Roi Dock, operator of Ohio State Police Constable Service at 1355 Logan Ave. "This is like civil rights to us."
He said Dubose, Smith, Bryant, Taylor and Kwasnik work for Ohio State Police Constable Service.
Last September, Dock was convicted of performing security service without a license and placed on one-year probation. He has appealed the decision.
Detective Sgt. William Ross, who has been on the constable trail for years, said he has "no clue" why Dock and his employees haven't gotten the message that they're not police.
"I explained it to Mr. Dock, the prosecutor explained it to him, and Judge [Elizabeth A.] Kobly explained to him," Ross said. "He tells his people that they're constables."
The sign at Dock's business, Ross said, is very deceptive. All it is, he said, is a name on the side of a building.
Dock strongly disagreed.
"We're certified as a business -- it just happens to be law enforcement," Dock said. "I can give them police powers because I'm the chief."
Not security guards
Ross said he doesn't understand why Dock's employees don't get the training required to be armed security guards, then apply for licensing through the Department of Commerce.
Dock said he doesn't want to operate a security guard service. He said he operates a legitimate private police department.
"Youngstown doesn't want to accept who we are. They have a prejudice against constables," Dock said. "They're trying to put me out of business. They're trying to stop me from working in the city -- that's what this is all about."
Dock said he can train his employees any way he wants.
Dock said city police should leave him alone. He said he has a right to do business in the city as a law enforcement department, not a security company, and he's told Ross that.
"We'll continue to arrest and prosecute," Ross said. "I guess after enough of them get sent to jail, they'll stop, but right now they're not listening. They think they're right and we're wrong."