In the United States, a sheriff is generally (but not always) the highest law enforcement officer of a county and commander of militia in that county. A distinct part of policing in the United States, sheriffs are usually elected. The political election of a person to serve as a police leader is an almost uniquely American tradition. (The Honorary Police of Jersey, a UK Crown Dependencies in the Channel Islands, have been elected since at least the 16th century.))
There are about 3,500 county sheriff's departments in the United States; they range from one- or two-member forces to the 11,000-member Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The average sheriff's department in the United States employs 24.5 sworn officers. The nation's sheriffs are represented by the National Sheriffs' Association, founded in 1940.
In many rural areas of the United States, particularly in the South, the sheriff has traditionally been viewed as one of a given county's most influential political office-holders.
Many sheriffs' offices also perform routine patrol functions such as traffic control, accident investigations, and transportation of prisoners. Larger departments may perform criminal investigations or engage in other specialized law enforcement activities. Some unusually large sheriffs' offices may have an air patrol (including fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters), a mounted patrol or a marine patrol at their disposal.
Many sheriffs enlist the aid of local neighborhoods in working to prevent crime. The National Neighborhood Watch Program, sponsored by the National Sheriffs' Association, allows citizens and law enforcement officials to cooperate in keeping communities safe.
As the sheriff's law enforcement duties become more extensive and complex, new career opportunities for people with specialized skills are opening up in sheriff's offices around the country. Among the specialties now in demand are underwater diving, piloting, boating, skiing, radar technology, communications, computer technology, accounting, emergency medicine, and foreign languages (especially Spanish).
Sheriff offices may coexist with other county level law enforcement agencies such as the County police, County park police, etc.
Note that the federal equivalent to the office of sheriff is the United States Marshal, an agency of the Department of Justice. There are 94 United States Marshals, one U.S. Marshal for each federal judicial district; the Marshal and his or her deputies are responsible for the transport of prisoners and security for the United States district courts, and also issue and enforce certain civil process. There is also a Marshal of the Supreme Court who performs all court related duties.
Arizona is unique in that many sheriff's offices have formed semi-permanent posse units which can be operated as a reserve to the main deputized force under a variety of circumstances (and not just for fugitive retrieval as is historically associated with the term).
All peace officers in California are able to enforce their powers anywhere in the state regardless of county or municipal boundaries, thus California sheriffs have full police powers in incorporated and unincorporated municipalities, outside their own county, and state freeways.
Before 2000, there was a constable or marshal in each county who was responsible for providing bailiffs to the courts and for serving criminal and civil process. During a reorganization of the state judicial system in the early 2000s, the roles of marshal and sheriff were merged, so that California sheriffs assumed the duties of most marshals, and the position of constable was eliminated.
The Sheriff's responsibility has changed. There is some debate within the state as to the duties and authority of the Sheriff. Today's responsibilities includes processing orders of the court, summoning people for hearings, and executing sales against property.
Since the consolidation of Duval County and the City of Jacksonville governments in 1968, a unified law enforcement force usually styled the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office (JSO) was created. Commanded by the elected Sheriff of Duval County, its members are referred to as "Sheriff's Police Officers" rather than deputies. JSO uniforms are dark navy blue, and patrol vehicles typically sport a gold stripe with navy blue "Sheriff" lettering.
Most of the qualifications, powers and duties of a sheriff in Georgia are detailed in Title 15, Chapter 16 of state law. Among other things, the law states that "the sheriff is the basic law enforcement officer of the several counties of this state." Section 10 makes it clear that the sheriff has as much authority within municipalities as he does in unincorporated areas of his county, although many sheriffs refrain from performing standard law-enforcement functions within municipalities that have their own police department unless specifically requested to do so, or are required to do so in order to fulfill other provisions in state law.
In addition to law enforcement, sheriffs or their deputies execute and return all processes and orders of the courts; receive, transport, and maintain custody of incarcerated individuals for court; attend the place or places of holding elections; keep all courthouses, jails, public grounds, and other county property; maintain a register of all precious-metal dealers; enforce the collection of taxes that may be due to the state; as well as numerous other duties.
The office of Sheriff in Georgia existed in colonial times, and was included in the first official constitution of Georgia in 1777. There is no limit to how many terms a sheriff may serve. Title 15, Chapter 16, Section 40 of Georgia law specifies that, upon reaching 75 years of age, a sheriff who has held that office for 45 or more years automatically holds the honorary office of sheriff emeritus of the State of Georgia.
In metropolitan counties the sheriff's responsibilities have changed from that of being the sole law enforcement official for their counties, to performing only traditional court-related functions but with wide-ranging duties in coordination with a county police department in the suburbs of the state capital and major cities. When these county police departments were formed they assumed patrol, investigative, crime fighting, and transportation safety responsibilities.
In addition to providing policing, the sheriff's department controls the county jail, guards the courthouse, acts as the process server for court documents such as summonses, and oversees evictions, even inside municipalities with their own police forces.
All Cook County Sheriff's Police Officers are Cook County Sheriff's deputies, but not all Cook County Sheriff's deputies are Sheriff's Police Officers. Police Officer is a job function and title within the Cook County Sheriff's Police Department. It should be noted; that, all Cook County Sheriff's Deputies have Police Powers regardless of their particular job function or title. Like other sheriffs' departments in Illinois, the Sheriff's Police can provide all traditional law-enforcement functions, including county-wide patrol and investigations irrespective of municipal boundaries, even in the city of Chicago, but has traditionally limited its police patrol functions to unincorporated areas of the county because unincorporated areas are the primary jurisdiction of a Sheriff's Department in Illinois.
The Sheriff's Police patrol services are often not required in incorporated cities because the cities such as Chicago have established their own police departments. The 500-600 member Sheriff's Police Department would not have the personnel necessary to supply full police services to all incorporated areas in Cook County especially in a municipality such as Chicago.
Sheriff's deputies, outside the Sheriff's Police, provide the other services of the sheriff, such as guarding the various courthouses in Cook County, running and guarding the 9,800-detainee Cook County Jail, and overseeing other offender rehabilitation programs.
Somewhat unusual among the states, Indiana sheriffs are paid a salary out of which they must feed the prisoners in the county jails in their charge. They must account for the money they spend on prisoner's food; many counties' agreement with the sheriff's department allows the elected sheriff to keep the remaining funds allocated. As a result, in many Indiana counties, the position of sheriff is one of the more lucrative of the elected officials, and the elections for sheriff are frequently hotly contested and draw larger numbers of candidates than most other county elective positions.
Indiana Sheriffs may also appoint Special Deputies to act as private security police for businesses.
One of the main differences between Kentucky sheriffs and sheriffs in other states is that Kentucky sheriffs do not run the county jails. County jails are run by a separate elected officer called a jailer who has the authority to employ deputy jailers. The sheriff's office, however, may be asked by the jailer to assist with jail security in the event of an emergency.
Deputy sheriffs, like municipal police officers, must be trained and certified as peace officers through the Kentucky Department of Justice Law Enforcement Training Center at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, unless they have previously completed another recognized police academy. To maintain certification, all certified peace officers must complete forty hours of in-service training annually. Sheriff's themselves, however, are not mandated to be trained and certified as the job requirements for sheriff are described in the Kentucky Constitution, rather than the Kentucky Revised Statutes. Many sheriffs, however, do choose to receive this training if they had not received it as a law enforcement officer with another agency prior to their election.
Under Louisiana Revised Statute 33:1500, Orleans Parish criminal and civil sheriffs' offices will be merged into one office by 2010 as a result of legislation passed to merge the Criminal and Civil Courts into one consolidated district court, as in all other Louisiana parishes.
In Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Howard County, and Montgomery County the Sheriff's Office still retains its law enforcement authority in all areas, however, their duties are strictly limited to enforcing orders of the court except in rare instances where called upon by the County Police or other law enforcement to assist. In Prince George's County, the Sheriff's Office and the County Police share the responsibility of county law enforcement. The Prince George's County Police still enforce the vast majority of crimes and traffic laws. Along with the traditional duties of enforcing all orders of the court, the Prince George's County Sheriff's Office responds to all domestic calls for service within the county's District III, is in place at all county high schools, is a part of the Homeland Security Task Force, and the FBI Task Force. Within Maryland, the size of each county's Sheriff's Office varies greatly from forces of approximately 30 sworn to well over 300 in the more populated counties.
In some counties (primarily urban counties such as Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, Genesee, Saginaw, Bay, Midland and Washtenaw), sheriff's offices provide dedicated police services under contract to some municipalities, in lieu of those municipalities providing their own police services. (Michigan law provides for or requires municipalities, depending upon their structure, to provide dedicated police services.)
The sheriffs of all 83 Michigan counties are members of the Michigan Sheriffs' Association. This professional organization, formed in 1877, promulgates standardized insignias that are used, to varying degrees, by all Michigan sheriff's offices on their uniforms and vehicles.
Notably, the Michigan State Police have general law-enforcement powers throughout the entire state. Thus, all Michigan residents have at least two levels of general police services (state police and sheriff's offices), while residents of a municipality that has its own police service have a third level of general police service.
Michigan law mandates the county sheriff be responsible for execution of all civil judgments by the circuit court, be primary law enforcement of all inland lakes via a marine division and run the county jail. The law also mandates the sheriff's "office" be established in the county seat.
Currently the Oakland County Sheriff's Department is the largest full service sheriff's department in the state.
Essentially, all areas of New Jersey are incorporated municipalities and the vast majority have their own local police agencies that provide general law enforcement. The New Jersey State Police provides primary law enforcement in only a few rural areas in Southern and North Western NJ that lack local police.
Many sheriffs' offices in New York State also have canine, marine, aviation and SWAT units, as well as various other specialized units. In N.Y., the Undersheriff is often the Warden of the county jail.
Until recently, most sheriff's officers wore a standardized uniform (black pants and shirt with dark gray straw Stetson hat in the summer and a black felt Stetson hat in the winter with a black Class A jacket for the dress uniform and a black leather jacket for the winter) and all patrol vehicles were marked in the same manner (white with red stripes, etc.). Several counties have moved away from these practices. Patrol cars in these counties have different vehicle markings, and deputy sheriffs wear different uniforms. Some examples are Ulster County, which has dark gray uniforms similar to the New York State Police; and Warren County, whose deputy sheriffs wear tan shirts with dark brown pants. In Suffolk County, the sheriff vehicles are black and white (similar to the police/sheriff vehicle scheme used in California). Ontario County Sheriff's deputies wear the traditional uniform; black pants, black shirt with brass buttons, and a black stetson.
Currently there are 57 county sheriff's offices, and one city sheriff's office, (see below) which covers the five boroughs (counties) of New York City. The largest sheriff's office in New York State is the Suffolk County Sheriff's Office with around 275 deputy sheriffs and 850 correction officers, followed by the Nassau County Sheriff's Department with around 100 deputy sheriffs and 1,000 correction officers.
Sheriffs in New York State (outside of New York City, Nassau and Westchester Counties) are elected for three or four-year terms, depending on the vote of the county government, specifically the county legislature. The Sheriff of New York City is appointed by the mayor (see below) and the Sheriffs of Nassau County and Westchester County are appointed by the county executives of those respective counties.
The City of New York, although it comprises five counties, currently has a single Sheriff's Office. Under a sheriff appointed by the mayor, the NYC Sheriff's Office serves the entire city and acts primarily as the enforcer of civil judgments won by the city against people and businesses, though deputy sheriffs retain their status as peace officers and therefore law enforcement officers. The placement of the sheriff's office under the city's Department of Finance, which is responsible for collecting taxes and fines, indicates the most common activities of the New York City Sheriff's Office. Other traditional sheriff's functions are handled by professional departments of the city (the New York City Police Department oversees law enforcement; the Department of Corrections manages the city's jails; the Office of the Medical Examiner handles the coroner functions; Court Officers handle security for the courts themselves and in lock-ups within court buildings; and so on).
The sheriff or his deputies serve processes and writs; handle evictions from city apartments or buildings seized for nonpayment of taxes; serve mental hygiene and Family Court warrants to take persons into custody for committal or guardianship; enforce traffic and parking laws, particularly in seizing automobiles the owners of which have failed to pay parking fines; and conducting sheriff's sales of real and personal property seized.
The Administrative Division controls the five county divisions (each corresponding to a borough). The department also has five Undersheriffs, one per borough, deputy sheriffs and clerical staff.
There are currently about 150 deputy sheriffs employed by the NYC Sheriff's Office. Deputies have full peace officer powers and are allowed to carry firearms on and off duty (as per the New York State Penal Code).
The sheriff is not to be confused with City Marshals, who are licensed by the city as private businessmen to be hired by people and businesses to enforce their own civil judgments. For instance, while the sheriff seizes land or cars for nonpayment of taxes or fines, the marshals may be hired by private owners to evict tenants or seize property as a result of a default on a loan.
The sheriff has duties in all three branches of law enforcement: Policing, Courts/Criminal Justice and Corrections/Jail. The Office of the Sheriff is the primary law enforcement agency for the unincorporated areas of North Carolina's counties. The Sheriff, as the County's chief law enforcement officer, has jurisdiction anywhere in the County, including municipalities, where the Sheriff's Office provides assistance and support to local law enforcement agencies.
Law enforcement duties of this Office include patrolling the counties, preventing crime, investigating violations of the law, and apprehending law violators. In addition, support services, such as communications, evidence, and property control services are provided. The Sheriff is also responsible for keeping and maintaining the common jail of the county, which currently consists of separate detention facilities at the County Public Safety Centers and the Detention Annex if required by the counties. The Office is responsible for transporting prisoners for court appearances.
In the area of judicial services, the Office of the Sheriff serves as the enforcement arm of the North Carolina General Court of Justice. The Office serves civil and criminal processes issued by the courts, which often includes arresting persons and bringing them before the courts, as well as the seizure and sale of personal and real property to satisfy court judgments. The Sheriff is responsible for courtroom security in the District and Superior courtrooms in the county.
Other miscellaneous duties of the Office mandated by the State include pistol purchase permits, concealed handgun permits, parade and picketing permits, and maintaining registries of sexual offenders and domestic violators.
In North Carolina, the sheriff is elected to a 4-year term. A county sheriff is responsible not to county authorities but to the citizens of the county. County governments are responsible for providing funding to the Sheriff's Office.
In Gaston County, the Gaston County Police is responsible for county-wide police services for the incorporated and unincorporated areas of the county, while overlapping with City and Township police. The Gaston County Sheriffs Department is responsible for the jails and the court system in Gastonia, the county seat.
In Charlotte, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police are responsible for the incorporated areas of Charlotte, and the unincorporated areas of the county. While the Sheriffs Department is responsible for the Jails in the northern end of the County, as the southern end is controlled by CMPD.
After statehood, only three public offices in Ohio were filled via the electoral-process system. The position of Sheriff was one of them. Through this new system, William Skinner became the first elected Sheriff in the Buckeye State. Since the early 1800s, Ohio sheriffs have been elected on the county level by the people they serve. The term of office for county sheriffs in Ohio is four years.
In each of the 88 counties of Ohio, the sheriff is the chief law-enforcement officer. His primary duties are to provide common pleas court services and corrections on a countywide basis, and full police protection to the unincorporated areas of the county. However, he also maintains full police jurisdiction in all municipalities, townships, and villages. In an effort to become consistent on a statewide level, Ohio sheriffs and deputies wear a standardized uniform, and all patrol vehicles are marked in the same manner.
Within Ohio, sheriff's offices have probably one of the most extensive sets of responsibilities to those they serve. By statute they must provide the following: line law enforcement; court security and service of papers; jail operations; extradition process; and transportation of prisoners.
Under their law-enforcement responsibilities, the Sheriffs are responsible for ensuring that the peace is preserved, riots are suppressed, and that unlawful assemblies and insurrections are controlled throughout their county. To ensure justice is administered, the Sheriff is empowered to apprehend any person charged with a felony or breach of the peace and may attend any court within the county. The Sheriffs are also empowered to conscript any person or persons of their county that they may deem necessary to fulfill their duties.
Though it may be unnecessary to cite additional authority, Blackstone confirms the common law power of the sheriff to make arrests without warrant for felonies and for breaches of the peace committed in his presence. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Common Law, Vol. IV, at 289. Indeed, such powers are so widely known and so universally recognized that it is hardly necessary to cite authority for the proposition. To make the point, how few children would question that the infamous Sheriff of Nottingham had at least the authority to arrest Robin Hood.
Presently, every Pennsylvania county has a Sheriff's Office. This has led to some overlap in places such as Allegheny County, where the Allegheny County Police is responsible for supporting local law-enforcement and patrolling county-owned property, including the Pittsburgh International Airport. Similarly, the Delaware County Courthouse and Park Police Department provides security police functions. With the newly expanded powers of the County Sheriff, however, this has led to some power struggles.
The Rhode Island State Sheriff's Department comprises one hundred, ninety-six men and women who are assigned to various job functions within Rhode Island's four County Court facilities: Providence County, Kent County, Newport County and Washington County. Note that the court facility in Bristol County was closed in 2002. They also serve at the Inmate Custody, Control and Transportation Unit in Cranston.
The functions of the Department include Courtroom and Judicial Security, Court Facility and Cellblock Operations, Inmate Transportation, Interstate Extraditions and Interstate Inmate Transfers, Writ Services, Body Attachments, Fugitive Apprehension, Narcotics Interdiction, Search and Rescue, and Special Operations.
The Executive High Sheriff is responsible for the overall administration of the Department. He works with a command staff consisting of a Major, the three County Sheriffs, Chiefs Deputy Sheriff, Captains, Lieutenants and Sergeants. Kent, Newport and Washington Counties each have a County Sheriff who are charged with the responsibility of supervising their respective county court facility and all assigned personnel.
The current Sheriff of Davidson County, Daron Hall, is still elected as is every other sheriff in the state, has recently added a new law enforcement division to his department. The division is called I.C.E. which deals with immigration issues.
In Texas, Sheriffs and their deputies are fully empowered peace officers with county-wide jurisdiction and thus, may legally exercise their authority in unincorporated and incorporated areas of a county. However, they primarily provide law enforcement services for only the unincorporated areas of a county and do not normally patrol in incorporated cities which have their own police agency. All peace officers in Texas, whether Sheriffs, city Police, State Troopers, Constables, or Marshals, have state-wide arrest powers for any criminal offense committed within their presence or view.
The duties of a Texas Sheriff generally include providing law enforcement services to residents, managing the county jail, providing bailiffs for the county and district courts within the county, and in some cases serving process issued therefrom (the office of the constable is responsible for most civil process).
The Harris County Sheriff's Office is the largest sheriff’s office in Texas, with a sworn employee count of 2,537 in 2005. In 2000, 60% of deputies were assigned to jail operations, 26% to patrol, 12% to investigations, and 1% to process serving.
Virginia is unique in that all cities are independent jurisdictions and are completely separate from any county. Thus, most cities (with few exceptions such as Poquoson and Franklin) have elected sheriffs, most of which focus on court and jail operations. By law, sheriffs can enforce all the laws of the Commonwealth in the jurisdiction they serve. Some city sheriffs (such as Portsmouth) also work alongside the city police in responding to calls and enforcing traffic violations.
In cities such as Poquoson and Franklin, these cities grew out of a county and still use that county's sheriff for civil process and court services. Those sheriff's offices still have concurrent jurisdiction in those cities but do not generally exercise them, allowing the city police to handle criminal/traffic matters.
All sheriffs are responsible for civil process, jails, serving levies and holding sheriff's sales to satisfy judgements.
Since 1983, when the General Assembly passed legislation allowing counties to establish police departments by referendum, only seven counties have done so. In most of those counties, such as Henrico and Chesterfield, the sheriffs offices exercise criminal enforcement authority sharing it with the county police, but generally let the county police investigate most crime.
The city of Williamsburg incorporated as a city from James City County in 1699. Prior to 1983, the sheriff's office handled all police functions for James City County while a sheriff performed court/jail functions for Williamsburg. When James City County established its county police department, that department operated under the county sheriff for two years before becoming a separate agency. Williamsburg's sheriff's office comprised only 8 personnel, it eventually merged with the county's sheriff's office to form the Williamsburg-James City County Sheriff's office. In the early 1990s the General Assembly mandated the uniforms for all sheriffs as being dark brown shirts with tan pants that have a brown stripe. Sheriff's office vehicles were to be dark brown with a five point star on the front doors and "sheriff's office" on the trunk. The five point star must have the jurisdiction's name in a half circle on the star and "sheriff's office" in a half circle under that.
In the early 2000s, legislation was passed to allow sheriffs to purchase white vehicles (if agreed to by the city or county), and allowing sheriffs' deputies to wear any color uniform the sheriff chose. Sheriffs' vehicles still must have the star on the front doors and markings on the trunk as before.
The Sheriff's Office, in conjunction with local police departments, assist with controlling traffic, issuing traffic summonses, and working with state and local law-enforcement agencies. Additionally, sheriff's deputies aid the county police, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a joint fugitive task force that provides apprehension and arrest of felons who face current warrants. Sheriffs are also solely responsible for executing detention orders for those who are ordered to receive mental health care.
Deputy sheriffs are the only members of law enforcement that can be dual-certified in civil process/courts and basic law enforcement. There is no distinction made by title, all those who work for a sheriff are Deputies. Police officers are prohibited from performing civil process or court duties. All deputies and police officers must meet state certification standards as set by DCJS (Department of Criminal Justice Services).
In Northern Virginia the sheriff's responsibilities have changed from that of being the sole law enforcement official for their counties, to performing only traditional court-related functions but with wide-ranging duties in coordination with a county police department in the suburbs of the nation's capital. When these county police departments were formed they assumed patrol, investigative, crime fighting, and transportation safety responsibilities.
By law, sheriffs are not elected at the same time. County sheriffs are sworn into office on even-numbered years; city sheriffs are sworn into office on odd-numbered years. All deputies must be re-sworn after each election. Sheriffs have complete authority to hire and fire as they see fit; deputy sheriffs serve at the sole pleasure of the sheriff. Sheriff's offices are completely funded by the state, unless a county or city wishes to supplement with funding.
The voters of Pierce County voted to pass Charter Amendment 1 on November 7th 2006 to change the sheriff's position from appointed to elected. The first sheriff's election in 30 years will be held in 2008.
The sheriff is the chief law-enforcement officer of a county and is empowered to enforce the criminal laws of the State of Washington and the county their office represents, as well as to serve or execute civil processes (such as court orders, evictions, property foreclosures, tax warrants); to maintain county jails; to provide courthouse security; and to provide general law enforcement in unincorporated areas. In many cities, police services are contracted to the sheriff's department in lieu of a city police department.
Many Western movies feature sheriffs of frontier towns who are either corrupt weaklings or glorious heroes who eventually rid their towns of all their mean elements. See Destry Rides Again and Dodge City for two examples of the latter type. Fictional sheriffs include:
Other important representations of fictional sheriffs have been Collie Entragian (Desperation and The Regulators), Alan Pangborn in The Dark Half and Needful Things, and Edgler Vess in Dean Koontz's novel, Intensity.
Sheriff Sheila?(Police Sergeant Sheila Prue wins landslide victory to become Windham County sheriff)(Brief Article)
Oct 28, 2002; * Eesha Williams writes: Sheila Prue, a fourteen-year veteran Brattleboro, Vermont, police sergeant and open lesbian, won an...
SPECIAL AGENT NEW ENGLAND'S NEWEST WEAPON IN THE WAR ON DRUGS IS JUNE STANSBURY, THE ONLY AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMAN TO HEAD UP A DEA FIELD DIVISION. THE POT-SMOKING CAPITAL OF THE UNITED STATES IS OFFICIALLY ON NOTICE.
Oct 23, 2005; June Stansbury, the head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration's New England field division, had barely been on the job two...