Last days of the Red Bank constable With the retirement of Saul Diamond, Red Bank will eliminate position

Staff Writer

By John Burton

Last days of the Red Bank constable
With the retirement of Saul Diamond, Red Bank
will eliminate position

Jeff Huntley  Saul Diamond, 86, has closed out his career as the last Red Bank constable. The position was officially abolished when Diamond retired in November. Jeff Huntley Saul Diamond, 86, has closed out his career as the last Red Bank constable. The position was officially abolished when Diamond retired in November.

When one hears the word "constable," it doesn’t necessarily evoke the same image as "sheriff" or "marshal": the romantic figure of the lone lawman on the frontier facing desperadoes.

No, John Wayne, Gary Cooper or Clint Eastwood never portrayed a constable.

Still, constables are officers of the law, and they have had a long history of serving the community of Red Bank.

The final chapter in that history is coming to a close. With the retirement of Saul Diamond in November, the borough’s longest serving constable also will have the distinction of being its last.

Diamond, not exactly an imposing figure at 5-3, has been a borough constable for almost 40 years, working in cooperation with the police force.

"It’s a law-enforcement position attached to the Red Bank Police Department," Diamond explained.

"A constable is almost identical to the office of sheriff," Diamond said.

Like the current responsibilities of the sheriff’s office, constables serve summonses, complaints and interrogatories.

And most importantly, according to Diamond, is the role constables play in the condemnation of businesses for nonpayment of taxes and the sale of the repossessed property.

The constables are appointed by the Borough Council, and Red Bank is eligible to have three constables because of its size and population, according to Diamond.

With Diamond’s decision to retire, the borough will eliminate the position and rely instead on the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office to perform those responsibilities, said Mayor Edward J. McKenna Jr.

At a recent meeting, the mayor and council awarded Diamond a certificate of appreciation for his lengthy service to the borough.

"We have been fortunate to have as residents Saul and [his wife] Dorothy Diamond," McKenna said.

"We definitely appreciate your commitment to public service," said Councilwoman Jennifer A. Beck.

Diamond, who is now 86, first served as a constable in 1958 in Hazlet Township, which at that time was called Raritan Township.

Later he served in the same capacity in Little Silver, before moving on to Red Bank.

Constables received their training at the Monmouth County Police Academy and, up until about 20 years ago, carried weapons.

Even though he sometimes found himself in a bad predicament, Diamond said he usually refrained from carrying a gun.

"I always felt safer without it," he said, noting he would usually be accompanied by police officers when trying to serve someone.

One time, traveling to Long Branch to serve a warrant, he went into a neighborhood bar looking for a man when he found himself surrounded by a group of the man’s friends.

Luckily for Diamond, there happened to be an off-duty Long Branch police officer in the bar who came to his aid.

"I tell you there were a number of times when I served people and found myself in a precarious situation," he recalled. "But the funny thing is, I’ve never gotten nervous until after it happened."

The diminutive Diamond chalks up his ability to stay in control to his approach to the task.

"My job was to do a job," he said matter-of-factly. "As little as I am, … I used to be able to fight like a son-of-a-gun."

While the position of police officer existed in the borough throughout Diamond’s career, constables were used as police officers in many other communities prior to the establishment of an organized police department.

One tale, which may be apocryphal, claims the sobriquet "cop" for a police officer is an acronym for "constable on patrol." (Another theory claims it stems from the copper badges and buttons worn by New York City police officers.)

When Red Bank was incorporated in 1870, it hired its first constable, Thomas Clausey. By the 1890s the town had a few constables operating as law-enforcement officers, according to local historian T.J. McMahon of Fair Haven.

Incidentally, the only borough law officer ever killed in the line of duty was a constable, according to McMahon.

On Nov. 13, 1899, James Walsh was shot and killed while attempting to serve a warrant, McMahon said.

"Constables were always the police," Diamond said.

Today, some municipalities, including Long Branch, Matawan and Lakewood, still have constables, but most of their duties have been delegated to the local police, sheriffs’ departments and the county clerks’ offices, Diamond said.

While there was some risk in the performance of his duties, Diamond said times have changed and not for the better for those in law-enforcement positions. It seemed an appropriate time as any to retire.

"It used to be when you served somebody, they looked at you and said, ‘Thank you’ even if they were going to throw it in the trash," he said. "Now you’re lucky if you don’t get hit in the head."

Diamond said he plans to spend his time helping Dorothy, his wife of 57 years, run the collection agency they established in 1960. He also plans to continue to serve on the borough’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, where he has been for more than 25 years.

"I’ll keep myself occupied," he said. "Dorothy and I are always going somewhere."

When Diamond looks back, he shakes his head with something akin to disbelief.

"Over 30 years, that’s a lifetime," he said. "I tell you, it’s amazing. It goes so fast."