Sheriff or Police?

My city, Alexandria, VA, has both a police department and a Sheriff’s department. Both are for the city proper (The part of Fairfax County that’s also called Alexandria is served by the Fairfax County PD). Is this redundant? How would their duties differ? How would they overlap?

Usually the sheriff’s department does work for the county courthouse - serving papers and such. They may also patrol ares outside of city limits, but still in the county.

In some jurisdictions the sheriff is just an arm of the courts. Serving supeonas, transporting prisoners and the like. In others they are an arm of the law as they are here in Davidson County NC.

I would guess that yours is the former.

The sheriff has quite a number of responsibilities beyond strict police work. In a few jurisdictions, a local county-wide police force has replaced the sheriff’s police work altogether.

The responsibilities differ from state to state, but the following is a generally accurate summary:
[ul][li]Chief law enforcement officer for the county. This means that he has the right to take charge of any criminal investigation going on in the county, at least in some states. (Ordinarily he will defer to the city or state police leadership who may have more advanced training than he – but the authority is there, and can be exercised when necessary, including in their behalf.)[/li][li]Person having legal custody of anyone remanded to jail. In most states, persons arraigned and remanded without bail or in lieu of bail are put in his custody, to be kept in confinement. In many states, misdemeanors and/or low-grade felonies carrying a relatively short (days or months not years) sentence are served in the county jail, in his custody.[/li][li]Person responsible for serving court orders. With exceptions including city courts and courts of last resort on the appellate level, the orders of the civil courts are handed over to the sheriff to be served. This constitutes a little known but highly significant part of a sheriff’s department’s work. In controverted situations, having a large, powerful deputy serve that order of protection or court-ordered writ of eviction is a worthwhile tool. [/li]Emergency situations. The sheriff’s power to deputize on the spot and in some jurisdictions to declare states of emergency are invaluable tools in a variety of extraordinary situations, ranging from natural disasters to riots.[/ul]

Alexandria is kind of unusual, also, because it’s in Virginia, and under Virginia law, all incorporated cities are independent and not part of any county. (Which can lead to weird situations. Richmond is an independent city, but also the county seat of Henrico County, which means, I believe, that any decisions made by the Henrico County Commissioners, sitting in Richmond, don’t apply to Richmond.) So, the Alexandria Sheriff’s department does the same thing a county sheriff’s department does.

Here in PA, the Sheriff is responsible for security at county court facilities, approval of concealed weapon permits, some prisoner transportation, and serving of court orders and writs from the Prothonotary, including holding sales for unpaid property taxes. The sheriff is elected.

Constables are the legal arm of the local magisterial or district courts. Constables are elected.

The warden handles corrections supervision on a county basis. The warden is hired by the County.

Each and every little bohunk town in PA can have their own police force, yet some have formed regional or area police districts, yet there is no county wide authority operating in PA, AFAIK.

Finally there is the state police, administrators of law enforcement for the turnpike and major highway systems, investigators of crimes beyond the level of locals, and backup when other resources aren’t available.

PA-clear as mud, complex as all get out, taxes and bad roads guaranteed.

The biggest difference and what determines the type of police agency that serves you is how the head of the department is put in place. A police department is lead by an appointed leader and the leader of a sheriff’s department is elected. The county I live in switched from sheriff to police and back to sheriff the past 10 years. There are some jurisdiction that do the opposite but not many.

Not all sheriffs are elected. Some are appointed. And some police department chiefs are elected.

The City of Richmond is most certainly NOT the “county seat” of Henrico County. The City of Richmond Charter provides for a City Council, and Henrico County has a Board of Supervisors, with day to day operations of municipal government directed by the County Manager.

In VA, cities are independent political jurisdictions and they have their own governments. The jurisdiction of city governments do NOT overlap into adjacent counties, which are, themselves, political subdivisions of the Commonwealth. Towns, too, are political subdivisions of the Commonwealth.

Here in VA, a municipality may have both a police department and a sherrif’s office - the responsibilities usually break along the lines of the sherrif’s office being responsible for court security, jailing of prisoners, transportation of prisoners, and serving of papers, with the police department responsible for actual “police work.” In rural areas, all of this is usually covered by the sherrif’s office due to financial considerations.

Yeah, but the Henrico County Board of Supervisors meets in Richmond.

No they don’t. They meet about 50 feet from where I’m sitting right now and that’s in Henrico County.

Oops. The building had a Richmond mailing address, so I figured it was in Richmond. (which is idiotic of me, because I have an Alexandria mailing address and don’t live in Alexandria.)