Sheriffs are law enforcement officers who are elected by the people in their counties. Sheriffs maintain law and order in the county, enforce court orders, arrest suspects, and respond to emergencies. They also investigate crimes, transport prisoners, and serve court papers.
Sheriffs are usually in charge of the county jail. Sheriffs may serve as bailiffs at trial or guard the courthouse.
Sheriffs typically work in local police departments or at a courthouse. Most sheriffs’ offices operate under county or city government. Some sheriffs work for federal agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or U.S. Marshals Service (USMS).
Sheriff Job Duties
Sheriff duties include the following:
- Enforcing the law in accordance with state laws and court orders
- Managing inmates in jails, overseeing security, maintaining safety levels, and ensuring compliance with rules and regulations
- Patrolling jurisdictional areas on foot, by automobile, or a combination of both, to deter crime and catch criminals in the act
- Conducting investigations to locate missing persons, solve crimes, and collect information for court proceedings
- Managing the county’s security resources, including planning security measures for special events or patrolling neighborhoods or businesses that are experiencing high crime rates
- Participating in community outreach programs that help keep citizens informed about crime prevention measures and community activities
- Executing warrants and other legal documents, such as summonses and subpoenas, issued by the court system
Sheriff Salary & Outlook
The median annual wage for sheriffs is $61,716. Those earning higher wages tend to work for state government agencies. The highest earners of the profession are making over $118,000 per year.
The employment of sheriffs is projected to grow faster than average over the next decade. This growth is due to the growing need for security in society. As crime rates rise, municipalities will hire more law enforcement officials to maintain public safety.
Sheriff Job Requirements
The requirements for sheriff are as follows:
Education: A bachelor’s or associate’s degree in criminal justice or political science can provide a solid foundation of knowledge to pursue this profession. In addition to these core subjects, students learn courses on law enforcement and legal topics, such as civil rights, constitutional law, liability and criminal psychology.
Training: To become a sheriff, candidates should complete state-sanctioned training programs. These training programs provide instruction on subjects like first aid, firearms and defensive tactics. They also cover topics specific to sheriffs, such as the role of the sheriff, legal issues and civil rights. In some states, training can be completed through community colleges or vocational schools. In other states, it is completed during a sheriff’s internship.
Candidates who already work for a sheriff’s department can undergo training with their employer after they receive a job offer. During their probationary period, they will complete a training program created by their employer.
The following skills are required for this job:
Knowledge of laws and procedures: Sheriffs must know the laws and procedures in their jurisdictions.
Good judgment: Good judgment is essential to sheriffs because they often must make decisions about arrests, searches, seizures, warrants, and court appearances without much guidance from higher-ups.
Interpersonal skills: Interpersonal skills are necessary for sheriffs because they work with many different people—sheriff’s deputies, crime victims, witnesses, judges, attorneys, law enforcement officers from other agencies, members of the media, and others.
Ability to take initiative: The sheriff must be able to take the initiative and lead others.
Patience: The job can require long hours and a lot of patience as you wait for evidence or suspects to appear.
Investigative skills: These skills are necessary for gathering evidence and conducting interviews related to criminal cases.
Sheriff Work Environment
A sheriff’s duties vary depending on the size of the jurisdiction, but they often include serving civil and criminal papers, keeping order in courtrooms, conducting evictions, transporting prisoners, apprehending fugitives, and managing staff.
Sheriffs may be required to work long shifts for extended periods, they routinely make arrests and serve warrants at night and on weekends and holidays. Sheriffs also must perform their duties during inclement weather. They typically spend most of their time standing and walking. They also spend time at a desk to check records and files.
The job can be stressful, as sheriffs are responsible for enforcing the law.
Here are three trends influencing how sheriffs work. Sheriffs will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
The Use of Drones
In the last year, law enforcement has begun to explore using drones for more than just surveillance.
For example, some agencies have begun using drones for search and rescue missions in areas that are difficult to access on foot.
In addition, there is potential for drones to be used for crime scene documentation and evidence collection in the future.
Increased Collaboration Between Local and Federal Agencies
Today, law enforcement agencies must be able to collaborate with both local and federal agencies in order to keep pace with changing demands.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has made collaboration a priority for its federal law enforcement agencies, which means that all levels of law enforcement must now be able to work together across jurisdictional boundaries.
More Emphasis on Community Policing
In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on community policing in law enforcement, which involves placing an increased focus on relationships between the police and the people they serve.
For example, community policing can include activities like having officers join local sports teams or become active members of a church or school in order to develop a sense of trust with their neighbors.