Rarely do I have the chance to publish exclusive content, but as excited as it may sound, the following article is such a piece. Upon contacting them, the writer of this post – a US law enforcer – let me publish this article in its entirety. Reading it through gives you a detailed insight into the main differences between a sheriff’s deputy and a police officer. The author of this text did not wish to get credit for this piece of writing, however, if you think they deserve it, let me know.
“Having worked for city, county and state law enforcement over the years I’d break it down like this:
City cops work for a police chief who, in turn, is usually appointed by the mayor/city council. They have jurisdiction only within their city limits but many county Sheriff’s Offices will deputize city cops (by a blanket directive) that allows the city cops to conduct discretionary law enforcement activities (ie, non-emergency law enforcement actions) in the county where the city resides. Most city cops do not have statewide law enforcement authority (although some states certify all cops as a “peace officer” giving them a wide range of power in the entire state). This generally doesn’t apply to serious felonies occurring in an officer’s presence, but outside of their direct jurisdiction–all law enforcement can still act on those.
County deputies work for the Sheriff, who is an elected official. Most states have constitutions that mandate the Sheriff position in each county (ie, it isn’t optional for the people of a given county to say they don’t want a Sheriff). The same constitution gives the Sheriff the ability to have deputies to help him carry out the mission of the Sheriff’s Office.
Over the years, I have learned that Sheriff’s Offices in the Northern and Western parts of the country function very differently than their Southern counterparts. I work down south. Here, every Sheriff’s office is a Law Enforcement agency. Yes, they are primarily responsible for the county jail and for all circuit court related matters (court security, serving civil paperwork, etc). However, they all have a patrol and CID division as well. The larger ones, like where I worked, have specialty divisions too (Sex Crimes, SWAT, Homicide, Crisis Negotiation Teams, etc)–everything you’d find in a big city police department. I’ve learned that up north and out west, many Sheriff’s Offices are just responsible for the county jail and the courts and do very little street patrol (and sometimes none!).
The primary differences are:
- Backup. When I worked in the city my backup was 5 minutes away and I had at least one additional unit coming to every call I went on. When I worked for the county my backup was probably 20-40 minutes away and I handled almost 100% of my calls on my own.
- Freedom. When I worked for a city PD I had quotas to meet (they didn’t call them that, obviously, but that’s what they were). I had a certain number of traffic stops to make per day and I was expected to write tickets on most, if not all of them. It was also almost a 100% certainty that I would work anywhere between 6-10 “fender bender” style accidents a day (for a medium-sized city). At the Sheriff’s Office, they didn’t care if I ever did a single traffic stop or wrote a single ticket. The Sheriff was a politician–he didn’t wants us “harassing” his voter base. We were expected to drive around and be visible out in the county and to answer all calls for service quickly. That’s about it. After that–you could do as much or as little as you wanted and nobody cared. I also worked far fewer accidents as you don’t get many fender-benders out on county roads.
- Sov Cits. When you work for a city department, you may have to deal with Sovereign Citizens (the one class of people that every LEO hates). When you work for a Sheriff’s Office you won’t usually have a problem with them. One of the main arguments for Sovereign Citizens against law enforcement is that city, state and most federal LE are appointed, not voted on “by the people”. They are very big on anyone in a position of power being voted in, not appointed. A Sheriff, however, is directly voted in. Most Sov Cits won’t give a Sheriff’s Deputy too much trouble because they can’t use their main anti-law enforcement argument against a deputy.
- Fewer rules. City departments have policy books as thick as encyclopedias and as heavy a gym weights. There are rules and guidelines for everything. Sheriff’s Offices have a reputation (generally) for having less rules to follow. That was certainly true where I worked. The motto was “get the job done”–nobody really cared all too much “how” you got the job done. You were expected not to infringe on anyone’s civil liberties and you were expected to be able to articulate well why you used force (if you had to do so), but otherwise you could do pretty much whatever you wanted to handle any given situation.”