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H.S. Diploma
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What is a Sheriff?

Also known as: Deputy Sheriff, Chief Deputy Sheriff.

A sheriff is typically the top law enforcement officer of a county, and an elected county official. They have a law enforcement role, and have the power to make arrests within their own jurisdiction. They may also perform other functions, such as the maintenance and transportation of prisoners, traffic control and enforcement, and accident investigations. Larger sheriff's departments may carry out criminal investigations or engage in other specialized law enforcement activities.

What does a Sheriff do?

Sheriffs typically do the following:

  • Enforce laws
  • Respond to calls for service
  • Patrol assigned areas
  • Conduct traffic stops and issue citations
  • Arrest suspects
  • Write detailed reports and fill out forms
  • Prepare cases and testify in court
  • Investigate crimes
  • Collect evidence of crimes
  • Conduct interviews with suspects and witnesses
  • Observe the activities of suspects
  • Arrest suspects
  • Write detailed reports and fill out forms
  • Prepare cases and testify in court

The daily activities of sheriffs vary with their occupational specialty and whether they are working for a local or government agency. Duties also differ among federal agencies, which enforce different aspects of the law. Regardless of job duties or location, sheriffs at all levels must write reports and keep detailed records that will be needed if they testify in court.

What is the workplace of a Sheriff like?

A sheriff's work can be physically demanding, stressful, and dangerous. In addition to confrontations with criminals, sheriffs need to be constantly alert and ready to deal appropriately with a number of threatening scenarios.

They often work at crime or accident scenes and need to be able to deal with any death and suffering that they may encounter, as well as be able to support the victim's families through these hard situations. Although a career in law enforcement may take a toll on their private lives, many officers find it rewarding to help members of their communities.

How can I become a Sheriff?

Sheriff’s applicants usually must have at least a high school education or GED and be a graduate of their agency’s training academy. Regional and local agencies encourage applicants to continue their education after high school by taking courses or training related to law enforcement. Many applicants for entry-level police jobs have taken some college classes, and a significant number are college graduates. Many junior colleges, colleges, and universities offer programs in law enforcement or criminal justice. Many agencies offer financial assistance to officers who pursue these or related degrees.

Candidates must be citizens of their country, have a driver’s license, and must meet specific physical qualifications. They may have to pass physical exams of vision, hearing, strength, and agility as well as competitive written exams. Previous work or military experience is often seen as a plus. Candidates typically go through a series of interviews and may be asked to take a lie detector and drug test.

Applicants usually have recruit training before becoming an officer. In large local police departments, recruits get training in their agency's police academy. In small agencies, recruits often attend a regional or state academy. Training includes classroom instruction in constitutional law, civil rights, state laws and local ordinances, and police ethics. Recruits also receive training and supervised experience in areas such as patrol, traffic control, and use of firearms, self defence, first aid, and emergency response.


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