Sheriffs in The United States

Sheriffs In The United States

In the United States, a sheriff is a county official and is typically the top law enforcement officer of a county. Historically, the sheriff was also commander of the militia in that county. Distinctive to law enforcement 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 British Crown Dependency in the Channel Islands, have been elected since at least the 16th century.)

The law enforcement agency headed by a sheriff is typically referred to as a sheriff's office. According to the National Sheriffs' Association (an American sheriff's advocacy group founded in 1940), there were 3,085 sheriff's offices and departments as of the end of 2008. These range in size from very small (one- or two-member) forces in sparsely populated rural areas to large, full-service law enforcement agencies, such as the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which is the largest sheriff's office and the seventh largest law enforcement agency in the United States, with 16,400 members and 400 reserve deputies. The average sheriff's department in the United States employs 24.5 sworn officers.

Of the 50 U.S. states, 48 have sheriffs. The two that do not are Alaska (which has no counties), and Connecticut (which has no county governments and has state marshals instead of sheriffs)

Sheriffs are elected to four-year terms in 41 states, two-year terms in three states, a three-year term in one state (New Jersey) and a six-year term in one state (Massachusetts).

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.

Law enforcement officers working for an agency headed by a sheriff are typically titled sheriff's deputy, deputy sheriff, sheriff's police, or sheriff's officer, and are so-titled because they are deputized by the sheriff and charged with performing all the duties prescribed to the sheriff by that state's law. In some states a sheriff may not be a sworn peace officer, but merely an elected civilian official lacking police powers who oversees the department and its sworn peace officers. Law enforcement officers working for such departments may be subdivided, sometimes titled general deputy and special deputy.

In some areas of the country, such as in California's San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, and Ventura counties, the sheriff's office also has the responsibility of a coroner's office, and is charged with recovering deceased persons within their county and conducting autopsies. The official in charge of such sheriff's departments is typically titled sheriff-coroner or sheriff/coroner, and officers who perform this function for such departments are typically titled deputy sheriff-coroner or deputy coroner. The second-in-command of a sheriff's department is sometimes called an undersheriff or chief deputy, akin to the deputy chief of police position of a municipal police department. In some counties, the undersheriff is the warden of the county jail.

Read more about Sheriffs In The United States:  Duties, Sheriff's Categories, Notable American Sheriffs, Fictional American Sheriffs, 50 Largest Sheriffs Departments in The U.S., See Also

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