I know one is county based and the other on city borders when it comes to jurisdiction and such, but how exactly do they differ. Different responsibilities? Different duties? Does NYC have a sheriff’s department or only a police department?
Inquiring minds want to know
Sheriffs, in addition to police duties, often have other duties such as acting as process servers, dealing with confiscated property and land, running the local jail, and so on. Not all county police departments are called sheriffs. For example, Westchester County in New York has a Police Department which provides services to the various towns and villages that are too small to have their own PD.
New York City, does, in fact, have a sheriff. (There used to be a sheriffs office for each of the counties that comprise NYC’s five boroughs, but those offices were abolished a while ago.)
The NYC Sheriff’s job mostly deals with process serving, enforcing debts like child support, and other miscellaneous things. NYC also has a City Marshall that deals with evictions.
Arlington County in Virginia has both a Sheriff’s department and a police department. As the county has no cities (some neighborhoods have City as part of the name; however, they’re not actually cities), both departments are county level.
Here’s how the Sheriff of San Francisco tells it :http://www.sfsheriff.com/whatwedo.htm
(San Franciso city and county are the same area, no other towns in the county like in most big cities)
I feel the need to add that the actual position of Sheriff is often an elected position.
Sheriffs differ between states. In MA a sherif has no real authority I know of. They go around serving people paperwork. I think they could be replaced by anyone at the post office.
In other states sheriffs seem to be a step above the police. They have the ability to arrest people and drag them away. That seems to be more of a southern thing.
Sheriffs have a lot of power, especially considering this is at the county level, should they choose to use it.
One reason that the powers and authorities of sheriffs and police differ in different parts of the United States is that the sheriff is almost always a county-based office and the importance of counties differs greatly from state to state. In most of the country the county is a very important political jurisdiction and sheriffs are very important. But in the New England states, for example, counties are an extremely unimportant jurisdiction with very limited responsibilities. This is because in New England, with the exception of parts of Maine, there are no unincorporated areas subject only to the jurisdiction of the county. The entire state is divided into cities and towns which are responsible for making laws (local ordinances) and enforcing them. As an earlier poster said of Massachusetts, in New England in general the sheriff’s main responsibilies revolve around serving some legal papers, taking care of prisons, and, sometimes, guarding the county courts. When as a young man I moved from Massachusetts to Maryland I was puzzled when radio announces would report that something or other had happened in xyz county. My reaction was “Who cares what county it was. What city or town did it take place in.” It took me a while to get used to the idea of unincorporated areas subject only to a county’s authority.
I met my Massachusetts wife in my native Louisiana. Shortly thereafter, we took a car trip through the rural area where I grew up. At one point, she asked what town we were in. I replied that we weren’t in a town and left it at that. She repeated the question several more times and I gave the same answer. She became more confused and hostile each time and I had no idea what was going on. Eventually, we figured out the impasse in the concept and it just blew her away. In her mind, it was as impossible not to be in a town as it was to drive to the moon.
The Sheriff’s department in the area I grew up in did the bulk of the police work. Most of the area was unincorporated and it was rare to see a State Trooper come through the area. The town police were definitely a step down the ladder at least in terms of perception. The Sheriff position itself was an elected position and one of the more high profile ones.
In PA, our sheriff’s do very little. The office administers the sale of property for tax liens or default, transports prisoners, and handles security at the courthouse. I think they have taken on some of the homeland security readiness responsibilities. They barely have law enforcement power. In fact, the county’s detectives are under the administration of the DA. In cases where a town is too small to have its own police force, the State Police provides services rather than the sheriff.
In MA, sheriff s are elected, and frequently wind up in jail 9they are notoriously corrupt). Their activities include; running the jails, county courhouses, running for office, selling jobs, and going before grand juries 9before they go to jail).
Around here (Detroit Metropolitan area) the sheriffs aren’t very visible. Mostly they serve legal papers and run jails. It might be different in more rural areas of the state, but here in the urban sprawl of southeast Michigan you see the city police handling most law-enforcement matters, and the highways are the domain of the state troopers.
As far as I can tell, in Illinois, the Sheriff is county and state. The police are in cities and towns. I am unincorporated, so the Sheriff deals with issues at my place, even though the police station for the town is a stone’s throw away.
Interestingly, I heard a bit of trivia once upon a time that under old North Carolina law, the responsibility of arresting the sherriff would fall upon the coroner’s office.
I suspect they would have been inclined to ask the law enforcement agencies in the county seat, if any, for help, or call the NC State Police/Highway Patrol, but it’s still a fun bit of trivia.
I have no idea if that’s still on the books, and I suspect it would have gone out of favor some time around the Andy Griffith era, but it’s fun to kick around.
In San Diego County, the Sheriff is elected. The current Sheriff is a former San Diego City Police Department Chief. (Police Chiefs are appointed.)
As indicated here, the Sheriff’s Department handles court services (legal processes and warrants), detention services (jails and inmates) and law enforcement. It isn’t specified on that page, but I’m aware they specifically do law enforcement for unincorporated parts of the County and for cities in the county that do not have their own police departments. As I recall those cities have contracts with the Sheriff’s Department for the law enforcement services.
In Santa Clara County they seem to compete with local PDs and CHP for giving out traffic tickets. That could be a misconception on my part, since I’ve never actually gotten a traffic ticket from anybody other than CHP.
In my little prosecutor’s office, which is a “county attorney with prosecution responsibilities” office, we (primarily) get cases from three law enforcement agencies. The city police department investigates crimes in the city that is the county seat; there are three towns in the county, but only the county seat has a police department.
For stuff that happens outside the city, the sheriff’s office does the investigation and brings us the case. These run the gamut from accident investigation to thefts to abandoned vehicles to assaults…just about anything you can imagine. The sheriff also runs the county jail. The deputies serve our subpoenas, and they also serve as bailiffs at court proceedings.
The third agency is the Texas Highway Patrol, officers of the Department of Public Safety. They patrol the highways (imagine that) throughout the county, and they do just about anything that has to do with the roadways, from speeding tickets to DWI investigation to accidents. The DPS officers are not necessarily exclusive to our county; many of them also patrol other counties.
And we do sometimes get criminal cases from other agencies. We’ve had the park service contact us about prosecuting people for shooting wild hogs from the roadways. We’ve had TABC (Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission) file cases with us for alcohol-related offenses that aren’t DWIs. The Texas Rangers sometimes come around, though I haven’t seen them for over a year now.
Anyway, the sheriff’s office is pretty active and important in rural counties like mine, with nearly 900 square miles and only about 12,000 people.
In the county that Akron, Ohio is in, the Sherriff’s office runs a “mobile weigh station” on a stretch of highway about 3 miles north of the county’s southern line.
Sometimes the Highway Patrol runs the same kind of patrol on the same spot, though not on the same days.
That arrangement somewhat puzzles me.