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Opinions: County Police and Sheriff, or Larger Sheriff's Office?

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  • Opinions: County Police and Sheriff, or Larger Sheriff's Office?

    I've noticed that there seems to be two different takes on county-level policing in suburban counties. Not counting metro police and consolidated city-counties, it seems like the trend in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and in Georgia is that suburban and urbanized counties will have county police to handle all standard law enforcement duties while sheriffs' offices are much smaller and are limited to court and correction related enforcement duties. Down South and out West, it seems like county police are pretty much non-existent and in heavily populated counties, the sheriff's offices are very large and handle both court and general policing duties.

    I've never quite understood the reasoning for needing a separate department from the sheriff's office to carry out county police duties, even in suburban areas, yet there must be something to it, as even some counties that long have relied on the sheriff's office for all LE services have either formed a county PD or at least toyed around with the idea when their county began to grow large (examples being Loudoun County, VA and Carroll County, MD, both who currently have full service SOs but have considered forming county PDs). Is there ANY reason other than politics that a growing county would form a new PD rather than simply expanding the SO? Does anyone have any opinion as to whether or not one system or another is better?

    All just for curiosity and discussion sake.
    "If the police have to come get you, they're bringing an @$$ kicking with them!"
    -Chris Rock

  • #2
    It's all politics -------------and somebody having too much or not enough power.
    Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

    My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

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    • #3
      Division of labor? I don't get it, but I am basis to Sheriff's Offices.
      semper destravit

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      • #4
        They may feel that the SO is not responsive enough or effective enough. Politics will certainly come into play somewhere.

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        • #5
          In the cases I have seen county police agencies get talked about when some county executive can't stand that the sheriff is their elected equal rather than subordinate. So they cut the sheriff's funding and start a county police ran by an appointed chief

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          • #6
            Originally posted by vc859 View Post
            In the cases I have seen county police agencies get talked about when some county executive can't stand that the sheriff is their elected equal rather than subordinate. So they cut the sheriff's funding and start a county police ran by an appointed chief
            In other words-----------------------politics
            Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

            My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

            Comment


            • #7
              It's really weird what we have in Texas. We have so called Sheriffs, who are pretty much the same as sheriff's anywhere, and we have Constables, who are specifically elected and their main duty is to serve process. However, duplication can be seen a lot. They are both responsible for law enforcement in the county, and they both do the exact same thing, at least in regards to patrolling. Some counties, limit the constables to only serving process, while other counties task them with doing the same job as the sheriff's, except only limited to a specific precinct. i.e. Harris county precinct 4 and 5 constables.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by vc859 View Post
                In the cases I have seen county police agencies get talked about when some county executive can't stand that the sheriff is their elected equal rather than subordinate. So they cut the sheriff's funding and start a county police ran by an appointed chief
                This is a major factor into many current situations. There is a historical basis for others that also played into formation of county police forces. As the country advanced and people became more mobile it took time for the then current systems to catch up. Of course many can say the same thing today. The automobile actually played a large part to this. A vast majority of the sheriffs in the late 1800s through to the 1900s were on the fee system.

                As a sheriff was on the fee system he was responsible for the operation of his office through the collection of fees for services such as service of process and arrests made. These fees paid for the operation of the office. There are accounts of sheriffs later being provided for expenses but this was not always the case. Many sheriffs' of the day had to provide for vehicles themselves and then they had to maintain said vehicle(s) through such fees.

                Many deputies of the times were also what were called fee deputies. They were likewise paid on the collection of fees. They may have been a farmer or blacksmith with a deputy commission so they could carry arms and then make money serving process and warrants. The world started to become more mobile and folks started moving around rather then staying close to home. This model started to clash with "modern day" standards.

                Some sheriffs became corrupt. There are accounts in newspaper clippings that can now be found all over the internet demonstrating that some of these sheriffs of the day were on the take from the local bootlegger, dice game kingpin or even on the take from the local house of ill fame. These guys started to protect the blind tigers and the houses of ill repute.

                I have read accounts that some sheriffs would turn a blind eye to crimes committed by some to protect others, i.e. systemic racism. However, this may be due to turbulent times, fear of loss of life or just corruption. Several counties had only the sheriff, a chief deputy (or under-sheriff in certain locales), a jailer, matron, maybe a full-time deputy and a few part-time mainly fee deputies. It was getting difficult to muster a force, obtain vehicles and start chasing down criminals under the new world order.

                County policing was not exclusive to the sheriff. In all of the southern states there was (and still is in certain states) the office of constable. The constable was (is) elected to a geographic region of a county. In some states they were elected in townships (NC had townships only in name but not a separate level of government), districts, precincts, civil districts or wards. These constables were conservators of the peace elected to a region to serve a local area. Read just about any SO history page on the internet and most of the time you will read accounts that the sheriff was elected and only had a handful deputies to police the entire county. Whilst this is certainly true it is not the entire picture of the day.

                Constables were elected throughout the counties and they were generally within their district. I have read accounts in Tennessee that some counties had as many as twenty-five civil districts. Constables were generally elected one per civil district with the exception of the district containing the county town (county seat) then two were elected. This gave the populace a peace officer within reach rather than a days ride away.

                Problems existed with the constables as well. Constables were decentralized and in most southern states they were unable to appoint deputies. This then provided for a system wherein a constable would need to work with an adjacent district constable or they had to work with a deputy. This worked fine with a purely reactive system with folks on foot and horseback. However the system did not work as well when folks started to drive vehicles and traveled between towns rather than within the county. Then as the world stated to modernize and education and training standards found their way into the ranks of law enforcement. Accounts show that many constables felt like they were protected from having to adapt and they were protected by their respective state constitutions. Furthermore many did not want to obtain the education as they were elected officers and felt like they were exempt from training. There are news articles out there on the internet outlining this issue. Constables were their own worst enemy for not trying to get the education and a piece of the pie at the time. State constitutions were amended and constables were abolished or made optional. Many also lost their conservator of the peace powers as well.

                Politics has a hand in all. County commissioners stated having a greater deal of issues on their plates. Heretofore they may have just had to worry about purchasing a plat of land for the courthouse, jail, workhouse, poorhouse, and the operation thereof. They now had to concern themselves with industrial development and insuring the safety of the citizens. The county judge or executive was as mentioned on equal footing with the sheriff. They had no control over the sheriff. The county commission may have had little discretion over spending as well as most operations were on the fee system and stipends when available were statutorily defined as non-discretionary funds. The county had to draw pay warrant to pay for a telephone line and paper. They had to give the sheriff money for logs for the fire. However, when the sheriff needed to become increasingly mobile then the county had to start spending money. They now had a card to play.

                There are written accounts in newspaper articles demonstrating that a sheriff thought he was not there to run down and chase calls. He was there to serve process, keep the jail, serve warrants and be a general peace keeper. He did not want to roam the county chasing after speeding vehicles. Although other zealous constables started making out like bandits arresting speeders for the lucrative fees. This is were politics came into play. I have more to say but this post is way too long right now.
                Last edited by AvalancheZ71; 12-02-2014, 06:44 PM.
                That's what they do, it's a trailer park.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by chip4 View Post
                  It's really weird what we have in Texas. We have so called Sheriffs, who are pretty much the same as sheriff's anywhere, and we have Constables, who are specifically elected and their main duty is to serve process. However, duplication can be seen a lot. They are both responsible for law enforcement in the county, and they both do the exact same thing, at least in regards to patrolling. Some counties, limit the constables to only serving process, while other counties task them with doing the same job as the sheriff's, except only limited to a specific precinct. i.e. Harris county precinct 4 and 5 constables.
                  Actually they are not the same and dont do most the same work,Constables work in most places for the justice of the peace for each precinct serving eviction notices,civil disputes and acting as a bailiff for JP court .Very few places have them doing what the SO does unless they just happen to be in the area ,then they will take the call until the actual deputy shows up. Very few constables are out patrolling.

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                  • #10

                    Well said!

                    The comments above reflect my personal opinion as a private citizen, ordinary motorist and all-around good guy.

                    The aforementioned advice should not be construed to represent any type of professional opinion, legal counsel or other type of instruction with regard to traffic laws, judicial proceedings or official agency policy.

                    ------------------------------------------------

                    "Ignorance on fire is hotter than knowledge on ice."

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                    • #11
                      Since you asked about Georgia, I posted a crazy long response about how County Police in Georgia exist in about 13 of our 159 counties (along with other related issues) here http://forums.officer.com/t165999/ a few years back.

                      Enjoy when you have some time!

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by jdthor View Post
                        Actually they are not the same and dont do most the same work,Constables work in most places for the justice of the peace for each precinct serving eviction notices,civil disputes and acting as a bailiff for JP court .Very few places have them doing what the SO does unless they just happen to be in the area ,then they will take the call until the actual deputy shows up. Very few constables are out patrolling.
                        Yeah I said some counties have Constables patrolling while others limit their roles. i.e. Harris County.

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                        • #13
                          I prefer having a chief law enforcement officer that is directly accountable to the people.

                          That said, it all comes down to WHO is doing the job.
                          "I am a Soldier. I fight where I'm told and I win where I fight." -- GEN George S. Patton, Jr.

                          "With a brother on my left and a sister on my right, we face…. We face what no one should face. We face, so no one else would face. We are in the face of Death." -- Holli Peet

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by GApolice View Post
                            Since you asked about Georgia, I posted a crazy long response about how County Police in Georgia exist in about 13 of our 159 counties (along with other related issues) here http://forums.officer.com/t165999/ a few years back.

                            Enjoy when you have some time!
                            Great post with very detailed information. It is amazing how quickly the populace forgets why changes were made. I have asked around why such and such agency was disbanded and why changes occurred, as an example, in 1993 and I just get blank stares. I have been to city and county meetings and heck they cannot even remember why decisions were made just four years ago.
                            That's what they do, it's a trailer park.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Some of this boils down to the constitutions of the several states. In some the Office of the Sheriff is very strong, like in my state, Georgia. In many it is a division of county government and subordinate to that count government. I am of the opinion that my state got it right, for the most part. The Office of the Sheriff is subordinate to no one in county government, and is not beholden to them, nor their budgetary constraints to perform his constitutional duties. Not to say that he should spend willy-nilly, but to operate the jail, for example, he may use whatever monies that are required. That said, blowing money like it ain't no thang is not advisable in most circumstances.

                              In any case, I am biased, since I am a deputy again. The irony is, though, that my county has a separate PD. Total waste of time and money, since theirs is a competing budget.

                              Comment

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