Difference Between Sheriff And Police

Sheriffs and police exist in versatile countries with different responsibilities, which are required according to the given decree program of a country. Both, Sheriff and Police, are government officers who maintain the law and order. They patrol the city and enforce laws for the citizens. In many places, roles, duties, and functions of both sheriffs and police officers are intelligibly demarcated and both collaborate with each other in crime control and probe.

The primary differences between a sheriff’s department and a local police department are their jurisdiction and legal requirement. A police has authority within their city, town or municipality to arrest people and enforce laws. Sheriffs have jurisdiction over the entire county.


In the United States of America, the setting of a sheriff is different across states and counties. The sheriff is an elected county official, who serve to maintain order in a state or county. He is generally considered to be the highest law enforcement officer of a county. A sheriff is in most cases elected by the citizens of the county and are sometimes called “marshal” or “marshals.”

While their primary duty involves enforcing the law and ensuring public safety in county facilities, Sheriffs are also responsible for law enforcement in all unincorporated areas of the county, which often includes rural and remote regions where municipal police presence might be limited.

Sheriffs are also entrusted with management the county jail system. This entails overseeing the incarceration of individuals awaiting trial, convicted offenders, and those serving short sentences. The management of jails includes ensuring the safety and security of inmates, as well as complying with various regulations and standards. Sheriffs also facilitate the transport of inmates to and from court appearances, medical facilities, and other locations as needed. They also serve legal documents such as warrants and providing security for courthouses.

Sheriffs are also active participants in their communities. They engage in community outreach programs, educational initiatives, and partnerships with local organizations to build positive relationships and promote public safety. The elected nature of their position demands a strong connection with the public, as they campaign for re-election and are held accountable for their performance by the voters.

Sheriffs usually develop specialized units within their offices to handle various functions, such as criminal investigations, search and rescue operations, K-9 units, and community engagement initiatives.

Sheriffs exist in different countries and in each of them their responsibilities may vary according to the legal program that is followed in each nation. In many places deputies act as administrative legal officers, but in countries like Scotland they play the role of judges in court and in other nations like India, Wales and England occupy a ceremonial position.


In the United States, police departments is responsible for maintenance of law and order, focusing on maintaining public safety, preventing and investigating crimes and responding to emergencies within specific municipalities or towns. Unlike sheriffs, who are often elected officials with countywide jurisdiction, police chiefs and officers are appointed by local government officials to oversee and execute law enforcement operations within defined city limits.

Police are responsible for peace initiative duties within their local units or jurisdiction. They are employed by cities, municipalities and townships, rather than counties as is with the case with sheriffs. The powers of the police include the legitimate use of force and the arrest of anyone committing violations of the law.

Policemen have limited jurisdiction and usually patrol in towns and cities to make sure everything runs smoothly. They address everything from traffic violations and public disturbances to more serious crimes such as robberies, assaults and homicides.

Community policing is a central philosophy for many police departments, emphasizing proactive engagement with the local community to build trust, address concerns, and collaboratively tackle crime and quality-of-life issues.

Police departments are organized with a hierarchical structure that includes officers, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, and the police chief. The chief of police is the top-ranking officer, responsible for setting departmental policies, strategies, and priorities. While police departments have a primary emphasis on enforcing local ordinances and laws, they also collaborate with other law enforcement agencies, including county sheriff’s offices, state police, and federal agencies, when necessary.

Police departments often have specialized units, such as narcotics, SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), K-9, and vice units, to address specific challenges and tasks. Funding for police departments primarily comes from the city or town’s budget, covering personnel salaries, equipment, training, and other operational expenses.

Usually, Police officers undergo rigorous training that encompasses various aspects of law enforcement, including legal procedures, conflict resolution, use of force, emergency response, and community relations.

Sheriff vs Police: Key Differences


  • Sheriffs: Generally have jurisdiction over an entire county. They are responsible for law enforcement in unincorporated areas, county facilities, and may assist local police when needed.
  • Police: Have jurisdiction within specific city or town limits. They focus on enforcing local ordinances and laws within those boundaries.


  • Sheriffs: In many cases, sheriffs are elected officials who serve specific terms. This makes them accountable to the voters of the county.
  • Police: Police chiefs are appointed by the local government or city officials, and they may serve indefinitely based on performance.

Law Enforcement Agencies

  • Sheriffs: Lead the county sheriff’s office, which encompasses various divisions such as patrol, investigations, corrections (jail), and court services.
  • Police: Head the city or town police department, which also consists of different divisions like patrol, investigations, traffic, and specialized units.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Sheriffs: Often have a broader range of responsibilities, including law enforcement, court services, serving legal documents (e.g., warrants), and managing county jails.
  • Police: Primarily focus on maintaining public safety, preventing and investigating crimes, and responding to emergencies within their city or town.


  • Sheriffs: They have a hierarchical structure that includes deputies, undersheriffs, and various ranks within the sheriff’s office.
  • Police: Also have a hierarchical structure with ranks like officers, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, and chiefs.


  • Sheriffs: Training requirements can vary by state and jurisdiction but often include basic law enforcement training, as well as specialized training for specific roles within the sheriff’s office.
  • Police: Police officers undergo similar basic training, which includes law enforcement tactics, legal procedures, and community relations.

Focus on Rural Areas

  • Sheriffs: Have a significant presence in rural and unincorporated areas, where they may be the primary law enforcement agency.
  • Police: Primarily operate in urban and suburban areas where municipalities are located.

Budgeting and Funding

  • Sheriffs: Their budgets are often part of the county’s overall budget, which may include funds for law enforcement, corrections, and court-related services.
  • Police: Receive funding from the city or town’s budget, which covers their operational costs and salaries.

Community Policing vs. Broader Duties

  • Sheriffs: While community engagement is important, sheriffs often have a broader range of duties, including managing jails and serving legal documents.
  • Police: Place a strong emphasis on community policing, building positive relationships with residents, and addressing local concerns.


  • Sheriffs: Due to being elected officials, sheriffs may need to campaign for re-election and maintain a strong connection with their constituents.
  • Police: Police chiefs do not face elections; their appointment is made by local government officials.


  • Police: While both of them are peacekeepers, police officers do not have jails of their own and need to transfer offenders to the county jail.
  • Sheriffs: The sheriff’s department oversees what goes on inside the county jail and is responsible for transferring criminals in and out of prison. Police officers do not have that authority.

Key Takeaways

Points of ComparisonSherrifPolice
DescriptionA sheriff is a law enforcement officer dedicated to ensuring the community is safe and secure.The responsibility of police officers is keeping order and ensuring public safety is critical.
JurisdictionSheriffs have jurisdiction over the entire county.A police officer has authority within their city, town, or other jurisdiction to arrest people and enforce laws.
OperationA sheriff is typically the most senior law enforcement officer in a county.A police chief is the most senior law enforcement officer in a city or town.
RecruitmentSheriffs are voted in an election.The police are recruited in a competitive process.
TenureChief Sheriffs or Deputy Sheriffs have a 4 year period after which another election is held.The chief of police serve to retirement.
AuthorityThe sheriff’s department oversees what goes on inside the county jail and is responsible for transferring criminals in and out of prison.Police officers do not have that authority.