The Complex Duties of the Sheriff
NATURE OF OFFICE: GENERALLY
Sheriffs are generally classed as public officers, whether their compensation is in the form of salary or fees. They are ministerial officers. Ministerial officers have been characterized as those who have no power to judge the matter to be done, and who usually must obey some superior. Distinguishably, when any such official or peace officer acts or attempts to act by virtue of his general authority he is performing an executive function.
The office of Sheriff reaches far back into English history and was identified with the county concept brought to this country by the English colonists. The office of sheriff continues to carry with it all its common-law duties and powers, except as modified by statute. Thus, because at common law the sheriff was the chief law enforcement officer of the county, the sheriff remains the chief enforcement officer of the county, where this status has not been changed by the growth of local police departments.
A sheriff is usually a county officer, representing the executive or administrative power of the state within his county. However, where the office and term of sheriff are created and fixed by the constitution, the sheriff is a public officer in the state government even though chosen by voters to serve in the county. By virtue of the authority to the sheriff under the state constitution and statutes, when the sheriff or his deputy acts in his official capacity, the laws of the state are necessarily given effect. The sheriff and his deputies have also been said to be officers of the court, with the duty to execute all writs returnable to the court.
The office of sheriff is generally an elected one, and the office may be provided for in the state constitution. Where this is the case, the sheriff draws his authority from the state constitution and from the state’s statutes.
Although the sheriff has traditionally been the principal law enforcement officer of the county, this is no longer always true today. As communities grew, local police departments were created resulting in a dichotomy between the daily functioning of police officers and sheriffs. In some states, the establishment of a police department resulted in an erosion of the office of sheriff. In others, when a local police force was established, the power and authority of the sheriff to enforce the law and preserve the peace was not legally diminished; both forces acted co-operatively and in concert to achieve this desired purpose. Thus, it has been said that a sheriff’s jurisdiction in law enforcement matters extends throughout his county; the sheriff has concurring jurisdiction with that of the city police within the boundaries of any city within his county. And, ordinarily, the powers possessed by sheriffs at common law and retained in modern jurisprudence are concurrent with the powers now ordinarily exercised by police officers.
ELIGIBILITY AND QUALIFICATIONS
Since sheriffs and their deputies are classed as public Officers, they must, to hold office, possess the general qualifications required of other public officers with their jurisdiction, such as freedom from conviction of crime, residency within the applicable governmental subdivision, or compliance with provisions guarding against nepotism among the holders of public office. As to the office of sheriff, it has been held that an alien is not entitled to hold such an office even where there is no constitutional or statutory provision expressly excluding him, although the naturalization of a person between the day when he is elected to the office, and the date on which he is required to qualify, will remove the disability under such circumstances.
Except for those jurisdictions where the constitution sets forth the qualifications necessary to hold the office in a manner deemed to be exclusive, the legislature has the power to prescribe special qualifications necessary to render one eligible to the position of peace officer. Even where the office of sheriff is a constitutional one, such as educational requirements, a requirement that applicants for the position in question be members of the civil service, freedom of any conviction of crime, or age or other physical requirements.
POWERS AND DUTIES OF SHERIFF AS LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
The office of sheriff carries with it, in the United States, all of its common law duties and powers, except as modified by statute. Thus, the sheriff is generally the chief law enforcement officer of the county, and, as a general rule, sheriffs, within the scope of their respective jurisdictions, are given power, and have the duty, to preserve the peace, enforce the criminal laws, and to arrest and commit to jail all felons, traitors, and other misdoers.
It has been expressly held in some jurisdictions that the duty of a sheriff in the enforcement of the law against public offenses implies initiative on his part. He must be reasonably alert with respect to possible violations of the law and is not entitled to wait until they come to his personal knowledge, but must follow up information received from any source.
Ordinarily, a sheriff has charge and custody of the jail of his county, and of the prisoners legally committed therein, until discharged by law. He is also charged with the custody and care of the county courthouse.
In addition to serving as the chief law enforcement office of the county, the sheriff traditionally performs a variety of ministerial duties required of him as an officer of the court. Thus, the sheriff is required to attend upon courts of record, to serve original process; and to execute and return final process.
The office of sheriff is amenable to the legislative department of the government, and it is generally held that his functions, unless expressly prescribed by the state constitution, are not immutable or exclusive, but are subject to legislative alteration and control. This is in accordance with the general rule that a constitutional provision establishing an office without defining the powers and duties of the officer leaves such powers and duties to legislative control and enables the legislature to subtract therefrom. However, the sheriff cannot be divested, by statute, of those powers and duties, possessed under common law and incorporated into the state constitution.
GOVERNMENTAL FUNCTIONS AND THEIR SOURCE
The office of county sheriff was created by Article XVII, Section 2 of the Oklahoma Constitution, and that office is vested with the authority to uphold the laws of the State. Historically, the general duties of the county sheriff are as follows:
- Enforcing laws enacted for the protection of the lives, persons, property, health and morals of the people.
- Investigating crimes.
- Attending terms of court.
- Serving, executing and returning process.
- Keeping custody of courthouse and jail.
- Keeping custody and control of convicts.
- Collecting taxes.
These historical duties have been enacted into law in various sections of the Oklahoma Constitution and Statutes. Article II, Section 1 of the Oklahoma Constitution states in part the government is instituted for the “protection, security, and benefit, and to promote the general welfare” of the people. These rights are further defined in the following sections to the Oklahoma Constitution:
- Article I, sec.2 – Religious liberty.
- Article I, sec.4, 6 – Right of suffrage.
- Article II, sec.1 – Political powers.
- Article II, sec.2 – Inherent rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry.
- Article II, sec.3 – Right of assembly and petition.
- Article II, sec.6 – Courts of justice open-Remedies for wrongs-Sale, denial or delay.
- Article II, sec.7 – Due process of law.
- Article II, sec.8, 9 – Excessive bail-Cruel or unusual punishment.
- Article II, sec.23 – Private property-Taking or damaging for private use.
- Article II, sec.30 – Unreasonable searches and seizures-Warrants, issuance of.
In enforcing the laws enacted for the protection of the lives, persons, property, health and morals of the people, the Sheriff must also enforce the rights guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution of the United States; epecially, those rights guaranteed by the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments.
Other sections of the Oklahoma Constitution also deal with the duties of the Sheriff’s Department. Article XXI Ok.Const. 1 provides that penal institutions and such other institutions as the public good might require, shall be established and supported by the State in such manner as may be prescribed by law. The Oklahoma court system is established in Article VII of the Oklahoma Constitution.
“The courts of justice of the State shall be open to every person, and speedy and certain remedy afforded for every wrong and for every injury to person, property, or reputation; and right and justice shall be administered without sale, denial, delay, or prejudice.”
Finally, Article X of the Oklahoma Constitution sets out directives for the manner in which the taxes shall be collected. In performing its constitutional mandate to provide for the manner in which taxes will be collected, the State legislature has also given the Sheriff’s Department certain duties to perform in this regard.
If the Constitution orders our legislature to enact laws to carry out the Constitution’s goals, then those laws enacted by the legislature in pursuit of these goals, which outline specific duties and the details of how those duties are to be performed, become extensions of the Constitution itself. Each and every one of these statutorily required duties and the details of how these duties are to be performed must therefore be considered to be directed by the Constitution itself.
Legislative mandates executing the various constitutional requirements outlined above can be found throughout the Oklahoma Statutes. Because all of these statutes execute specific requirements of both the Oklahoma and federal constitutions, the duties and functions which they order the Sheriff to perform are therefore constitutionally mandated.
I. CONSTITUTIONALLY MANDATED DUTIES
Listed below are those duties defined by statute which are constitutionally mandated, based on the discussion above.
- “It shall be the duty of the sheriff, undersheriffs and deputies to keep and preserve the peace of their respective counties, and to quiet and suppress all affrays, riots and unlawful assemblies and insurrections . . . .,”
- “Every county . . . shall have a jail or access to a jail,” “When there is no sufficient prison in any county,” the Sheriff shall transport prisoners to the nearest county having a “sufficient jail” at the expense of the transporting county,”The sheriff . . . shall have charge of the county jail of his county and of all persons by law confined therein, and such sheriff . . . is hereby required to conform, in all respects, to the rules and directions promulgated pursuant to Section 192 of Title 74 of the Oklahoma Statutes (the Minimum Inspection Standards for Oklahoma Jails) and of the district judge and communicated to him by proper authority.”Other legislative directives which detail how these constitutional functions and duties are to be performed can be found in Chapter 2, Title 57 Oklahoma Statutes.
- ” The sheriff in person, or by his undersheriff or deputy, shall serve and execute, according to law, all process, writs, precepts and orders issued or made by lawful authorities, and to him directed, and shall attend upon the several courts of record held in his county.” Additionally,All work issued out of the district court shall be served by the sheriff or his salaried deputies, together with such other work as may be placed in the hands of the sheriff or salaried deputies, by any court in his or their county except as provided in Section 158. 1 of Title 12 of the Oklahoma Statutes. All process placed in the hands of the sheriff shall be served promptly and the return thereof made without delay and filed in the proper court. A failure to promptly serve process placed in the hands of the sheriff, or the failure to perform expeditiously all the duties of his office, shall be grounds for removal of such sheriff.”
- The Sheriff is commanded in 68 O.S. 24306.1 to collect unpaid taxes; this is to be done through the issuance and levying of tax warrants as outlined, 68 O.S. 24306.1;
- The Sheriff is commanded in 57 O.S. 95 to transport any person convicted of an offense against the state and sentenced to imprisonment which is not to be served in a county jail to Lexington Assessment and Reception Center, in Lexington;
- The Sheriff is commanded in 4 O.S. 85.3 to identify the owner of any estray and to return the estray to the rightful owner. If property is damaged by the estray the Sheriff shall assess and collect damages, Title 4 O.S. 85.4, 85.3;
- The State legislature has enacted Chapter 51, Title 10 Oklahoma Statutes to set out the specific rights which juveniles have under Oklahoma law and the duties which the State has towards those juveniles. Pursuant to his constitutional duty to protect the public, the Sheriff is constitutionally mandated to perform any of those duties in Chapter 51, Title 10 which are directed to peace officers;
- Neither the Oklahoma Constitution nor the legislature specify the duties which the Sheriff has regarding the enforcement of the criminal laws of this State. Nevertheless, these duties are no less constitutionally mandated than those set out in the preceding paragraphs. The office of sheriff is the oldest of our constitutional offices, going back to the English Common Law,”The office of sheriff carries with it, in the United States, all of its common-law duties and powers, except as modified by statute. Thus, the sheriff is generally the chief law enforcement officer of the county, and, . . . (is) given power, and (has) the duty, to preserve the peace, enforce the criminal laws, and to arrest and commit to jail all felons, traitors, and other misdoers. . . . The duty of a sheriff in enforcement of the law against public offenses implies initiative on his part. He must be reasonably alert with respect to possible violations of the law and is not entitled to wait until they come to his personal knowledge, but must follow up information received from any source.”This idea has been impliedly accepted by the Oklahoma Legislature;”The procedure, practice, . . . in criminal action or in matters of criminal nature, not specifically provided for in this code, shall be in accordance with the procedure, practice, and pleadings of the common law.”
Additionally, by not listing the office of the sheriff in 22 O.S. 34, the legislature recognized the office already had the inherent power and duty to prevent public offenses. Given all of the above, it must be concluded the Sheriff has a constitutionally mandated duty to prevent, enforce, and investigate the violations of the criminal law of this State.
His duties regarding the enforcement of the criminal law, subject only to changing criminal procedure, have not changed.
II. LEGISLATIVELY MANDATED DUTIES
Listed below are those duties which are legislatively mandated:
- The Sheriff must take action against any slaughterhouse or cemetery which is being operated in violation of the law to have it declared a public nuisance;
- Enforcement of the laws dealing with deceased livestock;
- Settling disputes regarding partition fencing;
- Serving those warrants which are issued by the Oklahoma National Guard for those who have gone AWOL.
- As previously stated, most of the provisions of Title 57 outline constitutionally mandated duties and functions. There are, however, a few exceptions to this, as set out below:
- Providing a Bible to every prisoner;
- Receiving all prisoners delivered ” by the authority of the United States;”
- Keeping and maintaining the jail register;
- Preparing and submitting the annual jail report;
- Maintaining a file containing copies of all processes regarding the confinement of prisoners.
- Compiling and maintaining those records required by the uniform crime reporting system established by the Okahoma State Bureau of Investigatin (O.S.B.I.);
- Submitting information to the state criminal identification system established by the O.S.B.I.;
- “The sheriff shall keep posted in each cell of the jail a list of the attorneys practicing in his county;”
- Maintaining the records necessary to ensure compliance with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
III. OPTIONAL FUNCTIONS
Very few of the functions the Sheriff performs can be considered to be truly optional. Included in this category are the following: informing the public about the various ways in which they can protect themselves from criminal acts and public safety in general; establishing a county bureau of identification; and the selling of unclaimed personal property in the Sheriff’s possession.
II. SERVICE OF PROCESS
As previously outlined, the Sheriff has the constitutionally mandated duty to serve all process issued by the courts. A process is any document, issued over a judge’s signature, which is an order for someone to do something. If the process is directed to a third party or parties, the Sheriff’s duty is simply to hand deliver the process to the individual to whom it is addressed; if it is directed to the Sheriff himself, whatever order is contained in the process must be carried out. In each case, not only must the process be served, but a return must also be made on each document.
Processes which are simply delivered to individuals include the following:
- Contempt of court citations, II Ok.Const. 25;
- Writs of Habeas Corpus, 12 O.S. 1331 et.seq;
- Notices of Hearing on Assets, 12 O.S. 842;
- Criminal and Civil Subpoenas, 12 O.S. 2004, 22 O.S. 711; (this includes Subpoenas Duces Tecum);
- Civil Summons, 12 O.S. 2004, 1751 et.seq;
- Garnishee Summons, 12 O.S. 1171 et.seq;
- Notices to Quit, 41 O.S. 4 et.seq;
- Applications for Tax Deeds, 68 O.S. 24323;
- Notices of Guardianship Hearings, 58 O.S. 561;
- Temporary and Permanent Restraining Orders, 12 O.S. 1276 (these orders may also be issued in any other type of action before the court);
- Protective Orders, 22 O.S. 60.1;
- Paternity Summons, 10 O.S. 89.
- Jury Summons, 12 O.S. 571 et.seq.
Those orders issued by the court which direct the Sheriff to perform a duty include the following:
- Orders of Attachment, 12 O.S. 1151 et.seq.;
- Executions, 12 O.S. 731 et.seq.;
- Writs of Assistance, 12 O.S. 686;
- Writs of Replevin, 12 O.S. 1571;
- Mental Health Orders to Transport, Title 43A, Oklahoma Statutes;
- Forcible Entry and Detainers, 12 O.S. 1148.4;
- Orders of Delivery, 12 O.S. 1571 et.seq.;
- Sheriff’s Sales (Provisions for these are found throughout the Oklahoma Statutes; the manner in which each type of sale is to be carried out is also specified by statute);
- Tax Warrants, 68 O.S. 24201;
- Writs of Possession, 12 O.S. 1486.
The sheriff’s department must also process and return all mandates which it has received. A mandate is a document received from the Court of Criminal Appeals upon its completion of a case review.
Except in the case of subpoenas and summons, processes which are simply served by the sheriff’s department are normally served to only one person. Subpoenas and summons, however, on the average, list six names per document. What this means is that even though the court clerk’s office shows only one subpoena issued, the deputy who serves the subpoena must make contact with each individual named on the face of the document in order to fulfill the court’s order.
The jury summons issued by the court are not automatically delivered to the sheriff’s department, only those which cannot be served by certified mail.
It is important to note, the processes directed to the Sheriff himself involve much more than the handing of a piece of paper to an individual. Writs of assistance, writs of replevin, forcible entry and detainers, orders of delivery, and writs of possession all involve a deputy not only delivering the papers involved, but physically ensuring the property listed is actually delivered to the individual on whose behalf the process was issued.
Orders to transport in mental health cases involve the taking of an individual to an institution for the mentally ill. Normally, the trips are either to Griffin Memorial Hospital, Norman, Oklahoma, or to Arbuckle Memorial Hospital, Sulphur, Oklahoma. Orders of attachments and executions also involve the physical taking of property into custody; however, these normally result in the holding of a sheriff’s sale.
All sheriff’s sales are conducted according to the same basic rules: notice of the sale must be published in a newspaper, notice of the sale must be served on all interested parties, the actual sheriff’s auction must be held, and all of the paperwork relating to the sale must be prepared and filed with the court. Additionally, in cases of sales involving motor vehicles or real property, additional paperwork must be prepared so that the new owner can transfer legal title to his or her name.
III. LAW ENFORCEMENT
As the chief law enforcement officer of the county, the Sheriff’s primary duty is to provide police protection to the citizens. While his jurisdiction coexists with the miles encompassed by the county, the Sheriff concentrates his law enforcement activities mainly in those areas which are not served by police departments. Support is also provided to municipal, state, federal, and other county law enforcement agencies, and to the probation and parole officers of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
A law enforcement agency must respond 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The task of providing law enforcement cannot be delayed until an officer comes on duty or a holiday is over.
The sheriff’s department’s law enforcement division is mandated to perform all the duties required of a police department. Generally, these duties can be categorized into the following areas:
- Basic law enforcement – “Professional crime-fighting now relies predominantly on three tactics: (1) motorized patrol; (2) rapid response to calls for service; and (3) retrospective investigation of crimes.”
- Courtroom security – “Attacks on the courts have ranged from minor disturbances and physical assaults to senseless acts of murder. . . . In court security, the emphasis is on prevention, containment, and control – all directed towards the protection of life and property and the preservation of the judicial process. . . . Security is needed in daily operations as well as celebrated trials…If the courts are to preserve constitutional rights, effective security is essential. Court disturbances threaten an orderly system of justice by interrupting the trial process and making it difficult for a defendant to obtain a fair trial.”Based on this discussion, it is obvious that the providing of courtroom security is also a constitutionally mandated function:
- Maintaining evidence and property – Physical items come into the custody of the law enforcement division of the sheriff’s department from various places. Generally, these items fall into two categories: 1. evidence of one sort or another in criminal cases; or 2. property being held until it is claimed by the rightful owner. All items, in both categories, must be inventoried upon receipt, must be logged into the property vault for safekeeping, and those items which are to be used as evidence must be kept preserved in such condition that they can be introduced as evidence in a criminal proceeding. Department policy regarding the handling of all evidence must be established to comply with court procedures; because of this, every hand which touches evidence must be documented and subpoenaed to court. Additionally, those items of evidence which are to be examined by experts, e.g. drugs, must be transported to the locations where the testing is to take place. Finally, all evidence must be transported to and from the courtroom when subpoenaed, and its security must be maintained during this time. Because the securing and maintaining of evidence is a necessary and integral part of any prosecution, the tasks performed by this area of the sheriff’s department’s law enforcement division are directly related to the Sheriff’s constitutional mandate to enforce the law;
- Communications – “Communication systems convey information from the public to a police department, to the officer who actually responds to the complaint, to other law enforcement agencies, and to information storage facilities (such as data banks of stolen articles and arrest warrants).” It is unquestionable the communications systems needed today by a sheriff to fulfill his mandated law enforcement duties are much more sophisticated than those of even a few years ago; however, “the police operate on the surface of social life. They must handle incidents, situations, and people as they are now – not societies or people as they might have been,” In today’s world, the officer on the street is required to have almost instantaneous access to the type of information referred to above in order to make a decision regarding how to deal with the situation confronting him;
- Service of arrest warrants – In those cases where no arrest has been effected during the course of an investigation, an arrest warrant is issued ordering the arrest of the suspect. Bench warrants are issued directly by the court ordering the arrest of some person who has not complied with a court order.
- Courtroom testimony – Successful law enforcement includes not only solving the crime, but also removing the criminal from the street to prevent his committing further criminal acts. This cannot be done legally without the involvement of the courts; therefore, the time spent in attendance on the court is constitutionally mandated.
IV. CUSTODY OF JAIL
All counties in the State of Oklahoma are required to have a jail or to provide for a place of imprisonment for all persons confined by law from that county. Title 57 O.S. 41 sets out, “Every county . . . shall have a jail or access to a jail.” Title 57 O.S. 64, in the meantime, sets out that “When there is no sufficient prison in any county,” the sheriff shall transport prisoners to the nearest county having a “sufficient jail” at the expense of the transporting county.
It is clear that these jails fall under the sole and complete control of the sheriff. The county commissioners and excise board can appropriate but they cannot regulate: “The sheriff shall have the charge and custody of the jail of his county, and all the prisoners in the same . . . .” 19 O.S. 513. Likewise, 57 O.S. 47 states:
“The sheriff . . . shall have charge of the county jail of his county and of all persons by law confined therein, and such sheriff . . . is hereby required to conform, in all respects, to the rules and directions promulgated pursuant to Section 192 of Title 74 of the Oklahoma Statutes and of the district judge and communicated to him by proper authority.”
Neglect or refusal of the sheriff to comply with the above provisions can subject him to criminal liability under 57 O.S. 55; and, because of this liability, he could also be subjected to removal from office. Furthermore, the sheriff is liable not only for his own actions and/or negligence, but that of his jailers as well, 57 O.S. 54.
It is clear from the wording of 57 O.S. 64 that if the county’s jail is not “sufficient,” the sheriff has no choice, he must transport the prisoners in his custody rather than housing them in said jail.
To then determine what is adequate or enough, one must look to the three general areas of the law which govern the duties a sheriff has with respect to the prisoners under his control.
First and foremost of these, of course, are the duties imposed by Amendment VIII to the United States Constitution stating that “cruel and unusual punishments” shall not be inflicted. This same guarantee is made by II Ok. Const. 9. While mere failure to conform to set minimum jail standards is not per se unconstitutional, any questions regarding general conditions of confinement, i.e. questions regarding medical treatment, the physical facilities in which confinement occurs, or the safety of prisoners in such confinement, etc., is always subject to Eighth Amendment scrutiny. As any sheriff knows all to well, any violation which is found to rise to the level of being a violation of such constitutional rights can become the subject of a 42 U.S.C. 1983 lawsuit.
Lack of funding has repeatedly been held not to be
“An acceptable excuse for unconstitutional conditions of incarceration . . . Furthermore, unconstitutional prison conditions cannot be excused by the fact that the required extra expenditures would violate the prison authorities’ duty to stay within spending limits imposed by state law.”
In addition to these constitutional requirements, a sheriff must, of course, also comply with the Minimum Inspection Standards for Oklahoma Jails enunciated by the Oklahoma Department of Health, as provided for in 74 O.S. 192. A violation of these standards possibly subjects the county and/or the sheriff to two sanctions. Title 74 O.S. 194 sets out the procedures whereby any jail not found to be in compliance with the Minimum Jail Standards is to be closed upon complaint made to the District court of the county in which such facility is located. Moreover, because these standards are in fact “minimum” and most apply to the basic conditions of confinement, any violation of these standards would likely be considered an Eighth Amendment violation as well, thereby eliciting the sanctions described above.
While prison officials normally have qualified immunity for acts done in the performance of their duties, even if such acts are later considered constitutional or statutory violations, such immunity “is not available, however, when the constitutional or statutory right violated was clearly established at the time of the violation.” A sheriff would therefore be hard-pressed to justify his qualifying for such immunity in cases wherein he has failed to meet a specific Minimum Jail Standard or wherein he has not complied with a requirement of case law.
More recently, the same court has held: “The weight of authority is that the statutory duty imposed upon the sheriff to keep his prisoners safely charges him with the duty of ordinary care to accord them decent treatment and to see that they do not come to harm by negligence.”
SELECTION OF SHERIFFS
Attempts to appoint the sheriff and other crucial elected officials has been a popular debate in many states. Such suggestions are well intended but will not accomplish the underlying goal. The main purpose behind this idea, appears to be an attempt to make certain that jail operations are run in the most efficient manner possible. Some reasoning is based on the fact that jail construction and operation has become a multi-million dollar business.
The best argument opposing appointment of the sheriff was raised by Sheriff C.W. Kidd, Jr., of Mecklengburg County, North Carolina. He aired his argument in a response to an editorial in a local newspaper, “The Charlotte Observer”. The editorial supported appointing the sheriff and other elected officials. Sheriff Kidd responded in part by saying:
“The sheriff is an office which traces its roots back to the Bible in the Book of Daniel, continued to be a vital part of our Anglo-Saxon history in England, and was a crucial aspect of the historical development of our own country. The office of sheriff has remained as a cornerstone of “government of the people and by the people” in every state of America (excluding Alaska)….An elected sheriff, answerable to the people through the ballot box is a benchmark of the American criminal justice system which should not ever be changed-simply because it works!
Appointing the sheriff (and other constitutional officers) is not the answer. The answer is electing persons with credibility and leadership ability who will operate and manage sheriffs departments which are staffed by highly-trained professionals…. The sheriff’s of the United States, through various professional associations, are constantly upgrading entrance-level requirements for deputies and additional in-service training is now also mandated by most states and individual sheriff’s departments.
….The bottom lines is: sheriffs of any county should not remain sheriff if he or she does not demonstrate that his or her department is a top professional law enforcement agency. Replacing the elected sheriff with someone who does not answer to the public would not guarantee professionalism; electing sheriffs who are themselves professional leaders will. The office of sheriff, belongs to the people. It is both symbolic and pragmatic. We should never appoint the sheriff, the chief constitutional officer of our counties.”