Sheriffs in the United States
In the United States, a Sheriff is generally (but not always) the highest LE officer of a County and commander of militia in that county. A distinct part of LE 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 Nation's Sheriffs are represented by the National Sheriffs' Ass 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.
All LE Officers working for the agency headed by a Sheriff are called Sheriff's Deputies, Deputy Sheriffs, Sheriff's Police or Sheriff's Officer and are so called because they are deputized by the sheriff to perform the same duties as he. (In some states, however, a Sheriff may not be a sworn officer but merely an elected official in charge of sworn officers.) These Officers may be subdivided into General Deputies and Special Deputies. In some places, the Sheriff has the responsibility to recover any deceased persons within their county. That is why often the full title is Deputy Sheriff-Coroner, Deputy Sheriff/Coroner, and the Sheriff's title is Sheriff Coroner or Sheriff/Coroner (like in California's San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and Ventura Counties). The second-in-command of the department is sometimes called an Undersheriff or "Chief Deputy". This is akin to the deputy Chief of Police position of a Police Department. In some counties, the Undersheriff is the Warden of the County Jail or other local correctional institution.
Jurisdiction and legal basis
In the U.S., the relationship between the Sheriff and other Police Departments varies widely from State to State, and indeed in some states from county to county. The general rule is that Sheriff Deputies concentrate their law enforcement activities in the unincorporated areas of their County, and on county property such as courthouses, and their role in incorporated areas is more supportive than primary. In some areas of the Northeast, the Sheriff's duties have been greatly reduced with the advent of state-level law enforcement agencies, especially the State Police and local agencies such as the County Police.
Most Sheriffs' Offices have a responsibility for law enforcement, their basic function which dates all the way back to the origins of the Office in feudal England. Although the authority of the Sheriff varies from state to state, a Sheriff or his Deputies (in all states except Delaware where it is going through arbitration) has the power to make arrests within his or her own jurisdiction. Some states extend this authority to adjacent counties or to the entire state.
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 LE 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.
Sheriffs in the United States generally fall into three broad categories:
Restricted service — provide basic court related services such as keeping the County Jail, transporting prisioners, providing courthouse security and other duties with regard to service of process and summonses that are issued by county and state courts. The Sheriff also often conducts public auction sales of real property in foreclosure in many jurisdictions, and is often also empowered to conduct seizures of chattel property to satisfy a judgment. In other jurisdictions, these civil process duties are performed by other officers, such as a Marshal or Constable. Examples are the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office in Pennsylvania and the New York City Sheriff's Office (a division of the NYC Department of Finance).
Limited service — along with the above, perform some type of traditional law-enforcement function such as investigations and patrol. This may be limited to Security Police duties on county properties (and others by contract) to the performance of these duties in unincorporated areas of the county, and some incorporated areas by contract. One example is the San Francisco Sheriff's Department in California.
Full service — The most common type, provide all traditional law-enforcement functions, including countywide patrol and investigations irrespective of municipal boundaries.
Note: There are two federal equivalents of the sheriff; one is the United States Marshals Service, an agency of the Department of Justice. There are 94 United States Marshals, one for each federal judicial district. The U.S. Marshal and his or her Deputy Marshals are responsible for the transport of prisoners and security for the United States district courts, and also issue and enforce certain civil process. The other is the Marshal of the United States Supreme Court who performs all court related duties for the Supreme Court of the United States.
Sheriff's Department/Office - Indepentent Cities