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Home > People > Professions > Sheriff and Police Officer Compared

Difference Between Sheriff and Police Officer

Sheriff vs Police Officer

We all are aware of the police department and the officers in this department that patrol the city for law enforcement. But in some countries, there are other elected officials apart from police officers to perform this function of law enforcement. The purpose behind having a separate department for law enforcement is to enhance public safety and to promote law and order. The roles, duties, and functions of both sheriffs and police officers are clearly demarcated and both cooperate with each other in crime control and investigation. The situation becomes piquant sometimes as different states have accorded different responsibilities to sheriffs. This article will highlight the differences between sheriff and police officers to remove confusion from the minds of common people.

The word sheriff comes from the old English concept of shire reeve, who was a man who performed the duties of law enforcement in a district in England. Nearly, all counties in England end with shire even today. The word got smaller when it was adopted in US and it became sheriff to denote a law enforcing officer. Sheriffs have been there in the US since pre independence and were there to protect people and to promote law and order when there was no police department in place. It was in the 18th century that the world saw the first police force in place in London that was called the Metropolitan Police force in London.

In the US, police officers have a limited jurisdiction which is normally the city limits or the town where they are posted. In sharp contrast, a sheriff, who is an elected official has the responsibility to look after a larger area such as a county or a state. A sheriff has the services of many deputies all of whom patrol outside towns and cities. They can however enter a city if they are performing their duties. Police officers perform similar role inside towns and cities where there are full fledged police departments. It is not uncommon to see men from the office of the sheriff to patrol the area to keep law and order.

In brief:

Difference between Sheriff and Police Officer

• In US, a sheriff is a police officer but not all police officers are sheriffs.

• A sheriff is the highest law enforcing officer in a county and is an elected official.

• The officers performing law enforcement duty from the office of a sheriff are called deputy sheriffs.

• Normally, sheriffs control rural areas where police department does not have reach or control.

• A sheriff is still an important official in counties as he is considered an arm of the county court. He has an important role to perform and is an arm of the police also in areas where police has limited reach.


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