Sheriff - Modern Usage - United States

United States

In the United States, a sheriff is generally, but not always, the highest law enforcement officer of a county. A sheriff is in most cases elected by the population of the county. The sheriff is always a county official and may serve as the arm of the county court (but these may be called marshals). The scope of a sheriff varies across states and counties. In some states the sheriff is officially titled "High Sheriff", although the title is rarely used. In urban areas a sheriff may be restricted to court duties such as administering the county jail, providing courtroom security and prisoner transport, serving warrants, and serving process. Sheriffs may also patrol outside of the city or town limits, or inside by agreement with the city; in these areas, sheriffs and their deputies serve as the principal police force.

The political election of a person to serve as a police leader is chiefly American tradition. The practice has been followed in the British Channel Island of Jersey since at least the 16th century. A sworn law enforcement officer working for a sheriff is called a "sheriff's deputy", "sheriff's officer", or something similar, and is authorized to perform the sheriff's duties. In some states, 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, in which case the full title is "sheriff-coroner". In some counties, the sheriff's principal deputy is the warden of the county jail or other local correctional institution.

In some areas of the United States, the sheriff is also responsible for collecting the taxes and may have other titles such as tax collector or county treasurer. The sheriff may also be responsible for the county civil defense, emergency disaster service, rescue service, or emergency management.

In the United States, the relationship between the sheriff and other police departments varies widely from state to state, and indeed in some states from county to county. In the northeastern United States, 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. In Vermont, for instance, the elected sheriff is primarily an officer of the County Court, whose duties include running the county jail and serving papers in lawsuits and foreclosures. Law enforcement patrol is performed as well, in support of State Police and in the absence of a municipal police agency in rural towns.

By contrast, in other municipalities, the sheriff's office may be merged with most or all city-level police departments within a county to form a consolidated city-county or metropolitan police force responsible for general law enforcement anywhere in the county. The sheriff in such cases serves simultaneously as sheriff and chief of the consolidated police department. Examples include the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office in Florida, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the Miami-Dade Police Department.

Sheriff offices may coexist with other county level law enforcement agencies such as county police, county park police, or county detectives.

In Virginia since 1871, cities have been completely independent jurisdictions which are not part of any county at all.

In those cities, the sheriff handles jails, courtroom security and serves all civil process — subpoenas, evictions, etc. However, in some counties that have created separate county police departments, the sheriff's office shares law enforcement duties.

The New York City Sheriff is appointed by the mayor. His jurisdiction is all five county-boroughs of New York City — Kings, Queens, Richmond, Bronx and New York counties.

The sheriffs of Middlesex County and Suffolk County, Massachusetts have ceremonial duties at Harvard University commencement exercises. In a tradition dating to the 17th century, the Sheriffs lead the President's Procession, and the Sheriff of Middlesex County formally opens and adjourns the proceedings.

There are also states in the United States that do not have sheriffs, such as Connecticut. In Connecticut, where county government has been abolished, the state and local police have sole responsibility for law enforcement.

Missouri has a county that eliminated the position of elected sheriff in 1955; the St. Louis County Police Department has an appointed police chief that performs the duties of the sheriff. Colorado has two counties that have appointed sheriffs rather than elected officials like the other 62 counties. Denver and Broomfield are city-and-county entities, which are required to have and/or perform a sheriff function. Denver's "sheriff" is the manager of safety, who is appointed by the mayor to oversee the fire, police and sheriff departments and is the ex officio sheriff. The position was created in 1916 to oversee the fire and police chiefs as well as the undersheriff who oversees the sheriff department. The Denver Sheriff Department is responsible for the operation of the correctional facilities as well as serving the courts per state law. Broomfield evolved from four counties in 2001. The Broomfield Police Department performs all "sheriff" functions under an appointed police chief, who acts as the sheriff per state law.

Read more about this topic:  Sheriff, Modern Usage

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