A sheriff of a county or city is an elected official. He, or she, has no  boss other than the people who elected him into office. Once elected, a sheriff appoints deputy sheriffs to assist him with the duties of the office.

Deputy sheriffs are political appointees and work at the pleasure of the sheriff.

A sheriff and his deputies have jurisdiction anywhere within the county where he is elected to serve, including all towns and cities located within the county. This is true even if the town or city has a police department and a chief of police. A sheriff still has jursidiction within that city and, he and his deputies can make a legal arrest there. However, a police chief and her officers may not venture outside the boundaries of their city to make an arrest.

Not only is a sheriff responsible for the enforcement of the law within his county, he also oversees all county jails and lockups, provides security for all courtrooms and judges, and he is responsible for the delivery of all civil papers, such as jury summons, subpoenas, and divorce degrees. A police chief may not serve civil papers. Therefore, all towns, cities, and counties must have a sheriff, but a police chief is not an absolute must. The sheriff can assume the law-enforcement duties in a town or city without a police department.


Civil process department

Even though they all wear the same uniform, not all deputy sheriffs are police officers. Those who work in the jails, courtrooms, and in the civil process department normally do not attend a police academy. They attend separate training for their areas of expertise.

Deputies who work in the county jails are corrections officers just like their counterparts in the state and federal prison systems.


Most jail deputies (corrections officers) are not certified police officers.

Some sheriffs cross-train their deputies so they can work anywhere in the department.

The second in command in a sheriff’s office is called a chief deputy, or chief. The chief deputy is in charge of the entire department if something happens to the sheriff that impedes him from carrying out his duties. In the event of the sheriff’s death, the chief deputy willl remain in charge until the next full election, or until a special election can be held to elect a new sheriff.

The chief judge of the area may appoint the chief deputy as acting sheriff. Actually, a judge could appoint anyone form the community as acting sheriff as long as that person is a registered voter and has not been convicted of a crime. Many states do not require that a sheriff be a certified law enforcement officer.


The second in command of a sheriff’s office is called the Chief Deputy, or Chief.

Some sheriffs also serve as coroner.

Donny Youngblood, Sheriff-Coroner

Kern County, California

*As always, I recommend that you contact the law-enforcement agency where your story is set to learn the local rules, regulations, and standard operating procedures of the department.

*Tomorrow – Sheriff’s offices – part two.

*I’ll be speaking at the Emerald Coast Writers Conference in Fort Walton Beach, Florida this weekend (I leave today and will return Sunday) I’ll continue the blood evidence information next week.

I will be posting the daily blog, as normal, but my responses to your questions may be a little slower during my time at the conference. Today, I’ll be checking in periodically during my trip to Florida. So, just continue to post your questions and comments and I’ll get to them as quickly as possible. If any of you are attending the conference please stop in to say hi.



  1. mnboater
    mnboater says:

    The fact that sheriff does not have to be a certified police officer was one of the most interesting facts I’ve learned in my research of this branch of law enforcement. Makes you wonder what percentage of the stereotypes about the rural county have a bit of truth in them.

  2. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Sorry guys. I’m just getting in. It’s been a long day. I’ll try to give you news about the conference tomorrow. So far it’s great.

    Terry – I forgot to mention Undersheriff. Same job, though.

    Malanie – That happens from time-to-time. The police chief of the first department I worked for also held the job of city sheriff. The county had a sheriff, too.

    Jess – I’ve never seen Veronica Mars. Bugging your daughter…hmm…I’d have been scared to learn some things my daughter said and did when she was a teen

  3. Jess
    Jess says:

    Very interesting. I worked in a DA’s office in Texas for about five years and noticed a little competition between the Sheriff’s Office and the police department Never knew if that was common across the country or if it was just our area.

    Did you ever watch Veronica Mars? What did you think of the high school girl who had her own taser, could bug just about anything and was much smarter than her ex-sheriff father. She made a living solving crimes for her friends. LOL Sure wish I could “bug” my daughter … 🙂

  4. melanie atkins
    melanie atkins says:

    Here in Jackson, MS. the Hinds County Sheriff just became the chief of the Jackson Police Department as well. State law doesn’t prohibit it. He’s running both departments, and is doing an excellent job. The crime rate in the city is dropping like a rock.