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Careers With County Sheriff's Departments

Throughout the country, sheriff’s departments serve as critical law enforcement organizations, often with a unique level of authority as well as responsibilities and roles that often differ from those of other law enforcement agencies.

Sheriff’s departments usually serve as the highest law enforcement organization within a county, although in larger jurisdictions law enforcement services are shared with metro police departments. In most counties, sheriff’s deputies enforce laws in unincorporated areas outside of the major cities. In many rural areas where towns may be unincorporated or lack independent police forces, the sheriff’s office manages most or all of the law enforcement services.  In a few jurisdictions, local and county police agencies have been integrated, with the sheriff’s department serving as the head of both organizations.

Depending upon the governmental structure within a county, the sheriff’s office may be responsible for a variety of functions including tax collection, emergency response and legal notifications such as evictions. Management of county jails, courtroom security and the transport of prisoners are among the most important responsibilities that sheriff’s departments take on.

County Sheriff – Elected Official and Law Enforcement Leader

As the head of the agency, sheriffs perform a number of administrative and professional responsibilities.  A county sheriff may be a sworn officer with the authority to perform duties similar to those of other law enforcement officers, but some elected sheriffs serve exclusively as commanders of commissioned officers.

Unlike the police within a municipal jurisdiction, sheriffs are elected by their county constituents. This adds a political element to this law enforcement position.  In some counties, candidates without any law enforcement experience may obtain these positions, but this is a rare occurrence. Most officials may also serve multiple terms, so running an election while in office is a common duty of sitting sheriffs.

County Sheriff Job Description

The job description of the sheriff is to ensure that the laws of the U.S. Constitution are upheld.  The oath of office of every sheriff includes the promise to defend, obey and uphold the U.S. Constitution and the rights granted to all American citizens. As an elected official, a county sheriff must perform duties with the approval of their constituents in mind. While these concerns rarely conflict with the legal responsibilities inherent to the job, there are some situations in which sheriffs may choose to enforce laws at their discretion.  This has led to conflicts with national authorities as it relates to gun control laws and home evictions

Deputy Sheriff – Deputized Law Enforcement Professional

Deputy sheriffs are commissioned officers who perform law enforcement duties throughout a county jurisdiction.  In addition to the common job description, which includes executing warrents, traffic stops, and arrests, deputy sheriffs also respond to emergencies and conduct criminal investigations.

As the primary law enforcement officers within the unincorporated areas of a county jurisdiction, deputy sheriffs must possess a comprehensive knowledge of the law and the community.  Although deputies are not elected officials, they represent the sheriff in many situations, so sensitivity to community issues may sometimes influence decisions.

Deputy Sheriff Job Description

Deputies are often responsible for the county jail and other law enforcement responsibilities related to government facilities.  Deputies handle the detention and processing of arrested individuals, which may include fingerprinting, questioning, booking and photographing. They complete the paperwork necessary to detain prisoners, conduct background investigations and tend to the needs of prisoners.  Deputies are often present in the courtrooms of local facilities, where they serve as prisoner guards, inmate transport officials, and bailiffs.

In many jurisdictions, deputy sheriffs also perform a variety of civil responsibilities.  These officers often serve court documents like divorce papers, subpoenas, and eviction notices.  They may also issue weapons permits as well as collect payments for criminal fines, levies or child support.

Marshals and Deputy Marshalls

In a few jurisdictions throughout the country, marshals are members of the sheriff’s office.  Most commonly, these law enforcement officers perform similar duties to those of deputies, but may be assigned to special duties like civil enforcement and court duties.  This allows deputies to devote their time and effort completely to law enforcement.

Especially in the southwestern U.S., the title of marshal or deputy marshal may still remain to denote local police officers. In many of these areas, the State Marshal’s Office is the primary police organization and possess the full range of powers that local police would.

In jurisdictions where marshals co-exist with other law enforcement agencies, they may be tasked with only specific types of law enforcement.  This may include code enforcement and investigations stemming from code violations.

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