What Do Sheriffs Do?
What is a sheriff and what does he do? Why is a sheriff any different than, say, a police officer? A sheriff is basically the head honcho at a sheriff’s department, and the sheriff department houses not only the sheriff, but all those who work under him. Those under the command of the sheriff are called deputy sheriffs. They’re the footmen of the sheriff’s department. They work to protect the peace by enforcing laws, and their activity is controlled by none other than the head honcho himself.
The word “sheriff” is derived from the word “shire reeve,” which was the title given to the tax collector in medieval England. Today, sheriffs are elected officials within a county. They are in charge of creating the weekly schedules and assignments for officers in the department. There is a sheriff’s department in each state except Alaska and Connecticut. Yes, in most states the sheriff is a constitutional officer, meaning that counties must have a sheriff. Alaska has no sheriffs because of the simple fact that it lacks counties, and Connecticut is devoid of sheriffs because it has no county government. In 42 of the 48 states that employ sheriffs, sheriffs serve four-year terms while in others they serve two, three, and six-year terms.
So what are the duties of the sheriff and his deputy? This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but they perform the same duties as police officers. That means, much like police officers, they’ll respond to reports of burglary and murder, as well as, issue traffic citations. The difference between the two is the scope of their jurisdiction and responsibilities. While the work of a police officer is confined to the borders of a city, the activity of a sheriff and his deputies extends to all the cities within a county. Sheriffs also have the added responsibility of delivering and serving court orders, policing the jails, and providing security for the courts.
Some cities will typically mail court orders to the person intended to receive it. But the court has the authority to request that the document is delivered in person by a sheriff. Some such documents include eviction notices, subpoenas, protection orders, and witness summons.
By law, police officers are required to visit the scene of an accident that causes $500 or more in damages and write a report of that accident. Sheriffs may also need to visit the scene to collect witness statements that can be used in that report.
Sheriffs have the same powers of arrests as police officers. While investigating a crime they’ll question witnesses, and gather the physical evidence at the scene of the crime. If enough evidence is collected, sheriffs have the authority to arrest and detain suspects until their trial.
Sheriffs are also responsible for policing the jails and guarding the courtrooms, two responsibilities that set them apart from police officers. Sheriffs will assign deputies to the courthouse to act as bailiffs. While operating as a bailiff, deputies are responsible for the safety of the judge, the plaintiff, the defendant, attorneys, and the jury. They will escort the jury anytime they are moving from place to place and search the courtroom for bombs and guns when there is a threat. They must also comply with the commands of a judge. For instance, they’ll have to remove someone from the courtroom from time to time at the request of the judge if the need arises. Deputies assigned to a prison will supervise inmates during meals, recreation, work, and other daily activities, enforcing the rules and regulations within that prison to ensure that peace is maintained. They also have the responsibility of transporting inmates to and from the courthouse for their trial.
The average sheriff makes $45,178 a year, with the annual salary ranging from $37k. $62k. The employment growth for sheriffs is projected to increase by 4% by 2024.