County Sheriffs are similar to police officers in many ways, but quite distinct from police officers in other areas. Sheriffs are elected officials, who work on the county level providing services to communities and individuals by protecting the safety and property of others.
Because they are elected officials, it behooves sheriffs to be personable and able to interact tactfully as well as professionally with members of the community. Sheriffs work long hours and face dangerous situations, yet continue to provide a wide range of public services to those who cannot protect themselves.
Education and Other Requirements
County sheriff is not an entry-level position. Rather, it is a competitive job that has specific requirements in the areas of education and physical fitness, along with emotional and mental stability. Many sheriff departments are not as large as their counterparts in urban police departments, still, the ability of the sheriff and his deputies to perform their duties demands they be the crème de la crème. In most departments, it is mandatory that the sheriff have a college degree in criminal justice, law enforcement, or another equally applicable degree, such as accounting or even mathematics or science.
Sheriff departments have stringent physical and psychological standards that must be met. Most departments enforce a minimum age requirement of 21. Additionally, most deputy sheriffs have attended college for a year or two, while many have completed their degrees.
Where Do Sherrifs Work?
Sheriffs work in a variety of situations: criminal investigations, domestic disputes, and on neighborhood and community patrols, establishing a presence that ensures public safety and discourages crime. Often, sheriffs shoulder more specialized tasks, such as public and media relations, administration, overseer of the local jail, and maintenance of security in the court.
At all court facilities, the bailiffs who ensure court safety are certified law enforcement officers working for the sheriff’s office. Sheriff departments may also provide other national services. These duties may include sexual predator and offender tracking, flight, civil process, fugitives and child protection investigation.
The primary and most recognizable of the sheriff’s duties is law enforcement. The sheriff is chief law enforcement officer and conservator of peace for the entire county. Responsible for service of all legal process directed by the courts or the county commissioners, the sheriff serves writs, warrants, subpoenas, and other legal documents.
Sheriff’s deputies have countywide jurisdiction, but primarily patrol the unincorporated areas of the county, along with the cities under contract with the sheriff’s office for law enforcement services. Depending on the county and the part of the country, the beginning salary packages for deputy sheriffs range from $40,000 to $75,000 per year and include excellent benefits. The employment outlook for sheriffs is predicted to be less than average.
Sheriffs face challenges that differ from those of an urban police department, yet they must meet the same standards of training and education. These men and women are dedicated, hard-working law enforcement officers.