The only interaction most people ever have with a Sheriff is if they’re watching the old “Andy Griffiths Show” on TV or are checking out a Western that features a Sheriff who has come to town to save the day. TV/Movie portrayals aside, what does a Sheriff actually do? And how do his duties differ from those of a Police Chief? Are their jobs interchangeable?
I had a chance to sit in on a training class with a Sheriff, and the differences are important.
He/she is usually an elected official and is the highest ranking member of the department.
Sheriffs generally appoint their own deputies and can appoint civilians to be deputies on the spot as needed.
He/she can enforce the law, maintains the county correctional facility, and is sometimes the only law enforcement officer in the county.
He/she transports witnesses and prisoners for county courts.
Sheriffs can serve as tax collectors and therefore, can seize and sell property when taxes are in arrears.
He/she serves subpoenas and civil papers (like divorce decrees or eviction notices, etc.)
He/she decides on and maintains an operating budget.
Every county has a Sheriff, but a Police Department is optional if the county has little crime within its boundaries.
Sheriffs have concurrent jurisdiction within each village, town or city within the county.
The Police Chief
A Police Chief is almost always appointed, and has no hiring/firing powers.
Most Chiefs are selected by the mayor and approved by the city council, but some are hired by a City Manager and some are elected.
A Police Chief has authority only over criminal matters and does not serve papers for civilian cases.
A Police Chief can make recommendations for the annual departmental budget, but does not collect taxes or have control over the actual amount of the budget.
The Police Chief’s authority is restricted to their own town and they are legally civilians outside their town.
In some states, some towns are very small, have little or no crime, and have no real need for a full Police Department. Detectives have nothing to do, so the department might be disbanded for economic reasons. In that case, the Sheriff’s Department would handle whatever crime might occasionally occur.
Candidates have been known to switch from the Sheriff’s Department over to the Police Department, but have to go through the new department’s training program.
State Police have jurisdiction throughout the state.
A Sheriff’s Department has jurisdiction throughout the county.
A Police Department has jurisdiction only within the town lines (unless in active pursuit of a suspect).
If there is a fatal car crash on a state highway, the Highway Patrol handles it, but if there is a felony stop or shooting, then the county (and therefore Sheriff’s Department) handles it.
There are over 3,000 Sheriffs in the USA.
There are three states that don’t have Sheriff’s Departments: Alaska, which has no county governments; Connecticut, where Sheriffs have been replaced by Marshals; Hawaii, where Deputy Sheriffs work for the Department of Public Safety.
I did a ride-along with a Deputy Sheriff out in a remote county one hot summer evening. While we rode on the highway, he explained what he looked for in suspicious behavior of other drivers on the road, showed me how his on-board computer worked while he drove at 65 mph on the highway, kept in touch with Dispatch about a developing hostage situation in the county, and ended the night with an investigation of a possible burglary. He felt that his cases had the same variety as a Police Officer’s and he liked the wider jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Department.
Spend a similar evening in a Police Officer’s car and while your tour might not take you as many miles, I would bet you might have the same experience – a proud officer explaining a job he loves.
Last Monday evening, we dropped Bridget’s Mustang off at the local repair shop. (Read what happened on Monday during the day here.)
They usually do a great job on the cars, so we had no doubt that whatever caused it to die in the driveway would be sorted out. The guy at the front desk had told us on the phone to hold on to the keys until the morning, so we did.
Tuesday 8:30am – The key and fob were handed over and we had a short chat about what the car would not do. Electrical systems still functioned, but it just wouldn’t start. They still had the work order from the day before, so everything looked good for a speedy fix. “No problem. We’ll get to the bottom of it.”
Tuesday 3pm – I called to get the diagnosis. The car had not been looked at yet. “Sorry, we got backed up. We’ll get right on it, but we’ll have to keep it overnight.” Bridget raised her eyebrows. I reassured her, “Tomorrow, Sis.”
Wednesday Noon – I called.
“Any news yet?”
“We had an emergency and had to put another car on the lift. We’ll get to yours this afternoon.”
Emergency? Do repair shops have emergencies?
Wednesday 2:30pm – They called me. “You needed a fuel pump. We’ll have it done by close of business.”
4pm – They called me.
“Do you have another set of keys? We think the theft system is overriding the ignition. You did need a fuel pump, but the key you gave us is not the original key.”
Hmmmm… the theft light flashes whenever the onboard computer thinks someone is trying to steal the car. Bridget said that it flashes when she opens the car door, before she puts the key into the ignition. I had given the guys my backup key, so that Bridget could hold on to the original. Ya know, in case somebody locked himself (or herself) out of the car while she was visiting.
I took them the original. Bridget did not want to talk to them. She wanted her car back.
Thursday 10am – I called. It was on the lift. “Call back after lunch.”
1pm – I called. Nobody knew anything. The guy I had been talking to was off for the afternoon.
3pm – They called me.
The man on the phone said, “I made a decision on my own initiative. I put it on a flatbed and took it down the road to the dealer. We had no choice. We can’t get it started. We think that something is wrong with the key and the computer and they both need to be reset. That can only be done at the dealer. They’ll get it into the schedule tomorrow.”
Bridget steamed and threatened to fly home. Sheila took her out for the evening. Lots of door slamming as they left. I stayed out of sight.
Friday Noon: I called the repair shop. A different guy was now talking to me. He had not heard anything, but promised to call the dealership.
3:30pm I called the repair shop. The ‘new guy’ had not spoken to the people at the dealership, but asked me to ‘hold’ while he did. I was told that the Mustang was next.
4:50pm The repair shop guy called and said the key fob had been reset at the dealer, but the car still would not start on its own. They had to cross the wires to jumpstart it. The car was on the lift and the dealer mechanics were looking for the problem. I would not see the car until Monday, maybe Tuesday.
You don’t want to know what Bridget said. She complained a bit about the lousy treatment her favorite car ever was getting. In different words.
The weekend was seriously quiet at our house. Bridget tried to get a flight out, but last minute tickets were triple the usual price. She made a few tense phone calls to rearrange her back-home appointments and then went shopping for groceries with Sheila. They cooked all weekend. I stayed out of their way. I think the freezer is stocked for years.
Monday 9:45am – A repair shop guy called. “The dealer mechanic is working on it as we speak. They actually had it running for a few minutes.”
He explained again why the car had been taken to the dealer. I kept thinking $$$.
Monday, 1pm – I called the repair shop. Nobody wanted to tell me the bad news, so the backup front desk guy got on the phone. “The entire security system shut down, and they think the key was at fault (saying that the key – the original – was a fake) and had shorted out the system.
I was there when Bridget bought the car. This was the same key fob she’d always had. I told the guy that. My voice might have gotten a little loud.
The dealer had ordered a special security system part that was going to take three days to arrive. Three days? Where was this part coming from? Now I’m thinkin’ BIG $$$.
And then the repair shop guy said, “The car will not be ready until late Thursday.”
Bridget and Sheila both join me in saying, “There will be bodies.”
*Photos taken by Patti Phillips
My sister, Bridget, bought her Mustang in Dallas, Texas. V-8, 5 on the floor, leather seats, sweet car.
The dealer tried to talk her out of buying it by saying, “It doesn’t like rain or snow.”
She looked at him dead-on and said, “When does it rain or snow in north Texas?” She signed on the dotted line ten minutes later.
She loves that car. I love the sound of the engine. Everybody who rides in that car wants to see how fast it can go. (Trust me, it’s quick.) It really does not like rain or snow, because the last time she drove cross-country to visit, it got stuck in the driveway just before she was scheduled to leave…in the rain. Read the story here: http://bit.ly/LIUzQF A neighbor helped us then.
This visit, she drove Sally a lot more and had fun showing it off to some local car buffs. But, when it was time to load the bags in her dream auto and leave, the engine didn’t want to turn over. There was a heavy, rhythmic whirring sound, but it didn’t quite ‘catch.’ That seemed better than the finality of the ‘clicks’ last time, but not by much. It wasn’t raining, so the cause was a mystery – not one that I could solve.
9:35am We called our roadside service agency. We were assigned a reference number. The usually reliable agency was slammed with holiday calls, so we settled in for an hour-ish wait with more coffee all around.
11:15am A man from the tow truck company called and said he was on the way and wanted to know how to get to us. His announced location was 20 minutes away and I gave him ‘can’t-get-lost’ directions.
Noon-ish The tow truck guy showed up, but he had a wrecker, not the flatbed truck Sis needed. To our surprise, he had hooked the Mustang up before we got outside to give him the key. Even the tow truck guy saw the mistake in doing this, but muttered something about ‘the’ (translation= only) flatbed truck being needed elsewhere first. He unhooked the car as we discussed transmissions and Mustang shapes and bumpy roadways and damage to the car. Lots of grumbling on his part.
12:15pm He called someone and requested a flatbed truck be sent to our address.
I asked, “How long will that take?”
His reply? “No more than 40 minutes – tops.”
We waved goodbye and sat down to lunch.
1:10pm No sign of any tow trucks. I called the roadside people. The gal who answered was very sorry about the delay and said that a dispatcher would call me right back with an update about the tow truck arrival. Nobody called back.
2:05pm No sign of any tow trucks yet. I called the roadside peeps. B was tapping her foot, any chance of getting a couple of hours on the road before dark, long gone. The roadside gal was dismayed when I told her the story and said that a dispatcher would call me right back. I yelled, “WAIT!!!” into the phone and told her that I had been hearing that all day, that I had officially lost my patience and that I would wait on the phone until someone spoke to me who knew what was going on.
Turns out that the towing company had taken me off their list of jobs for the day, because for some reason they did not understand about the flatbed truck.
After several apologies, the roadside people issued me a new reference number and said someone would be right out. Sure thing. Bridget canceled her hotel reservation and went off to take a nap.
3:15pm No tow trucks in sight. Mustang has not moved. Guess whom I called? A supervisor got on the phone, and I ran down the details. Again. She apologized for everyone’s poor performance and asked if there was anything else she could do for me. She didn’t think it was funny when I suggested that she come get the car.
4:10pm A frantic phone call came in from a driver of a flatbed tow truck. He said, “I just got a text from a guy who was supposed to come tow your car. He says there was a screwup with the paperwork this morning and he brought the wrong truck. But, his flatbed broke down and he can’t make it, so I’m doing it. I’m 45 minutes away, but I’ll be there.” I knew his location and thought it would take much longer, but hey, he called. I was suspicious about the ‘text,’ but hey, he called.
In the meantime, the repair shop was going to close before we could get there. They had been expecting the car all day and knew what was and was not happening, but we made arrangements to leave the Mustang in a safe location overnight.
5:05pm The tow truck arrived. Wahoo! We made it down to the repair shop and the guy waved the $20. flatbed fee. Good thing.
5:45pm Roadside gal called and wanted to know if everything had been handled to our satisfaction. I answered, “Well, it was a bit longer than a 45 minute wait…”
I think I showed great restraint. No bodies anywhere. Yet.
*Photo by Patti Phillips