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Is Pursuing A Career As A Sheriff Still Worth It?

Is Pursuing A Career As A Sheriff Still Worth It?


This article was written by a contributing author and is not meant to be taken as legal advice or otherwise. Kindly contact us if you have any suggestions to improve this article here.

There are many types of law enforcement careers. The office of county sheriff is slightly different from other leadership roles in the field of law enforcement. The scope of their jurisdiction is limited to the county where they serve. Most sheriffs work hand in hand with the public to develop community policing strategies designed for their community’s unique needs.

With all of the division between the public and law enforcement, there have been concerns about a shortage of potential candidates for many county sheriff positions across the country. Becoming a county sheriff can be a very lucrative career, especially since it bridges the gap between city and state officers.

What Is a Deputy Sheriff?

A sheriff is the leading law enforcement officer that presides over the county at large. A sheriff’s deputy is one of several officers who support the sheriff and patrol the county. They are able to respond to calls outside the jurisdiction of the city police but can be called in to assist a city patrol officer if support is needed.

A sheriff or deputy sheriff may also be asked to assist state troopers or conservation officers if needed. A sheriff and his/her deputy have the same power to arrest offenders and write citations as any other type of law enforcement officer, except they are limited in area to the confines of their county.

How Does a Sheriff Differ From a State Trooper or a City Policeman?

A county sheriff’s department is an equal opportunity employer. What sets this type of law enforcement officer apart is that the office of sheriff is an elected position. It is not an appointed position like the city chief of police. A sheriff must establish a campaign, run for office and be elected by the public at large.

Another key difference is the size and scope of their jurisdiction. A city patrol officer works within the city limits. A state trooper works within the boundaries of the state. A county sheriff only has jurisdiction over their county. They can only use their authority within city limits if their assistance is requested. While they may still be able to perform a traffic stop, it can only occur under certain conditions.

The Duties of a Sheriff

In addition to the law enforcement duties, a sheriff must also handle various tasks pertaining to public administration. Arresting criminals, investigating criminal activities, keeping the peace, protecting the county’s people/property, and reviewing official law enforcement guidelines all fall under the category of law enforcement.

When it comes to public administration, a sheriff must promise to uphold the law and perform all civic duties associated with the office. It is also his/her job to allocate funds and develop budgets for local law enforcement agencies. A sheriff also has the final decision when it comes to hiring new administrative staff members and law enforcement officers.

Steps to Becoming a Sheriff

Making the decision to become a sheriff involves several steps. Since the sheriff’s position is an elected office, the first step is to become a deputy. Their initial requirements include:

  • U.S. Citizenship
  • High school diploma
  • 21 years of age
  • Eligible to carry a firearm

If these qualifications are met, you will be able to move forward to the next steps in the process.

Earn a Degree in Criminal Justice or Similar Degree

Once you decide to become a deputy sheriff, you will need to begin some type of formal education. In addition to enrolling in the Police Academy, you will also want to consider enrolling in a criminal justice or forensics degree program. These degree programs offer you the skills and abilities you will need to be effective as a law enforcement officer.

Some states require that a sheriff or deputy sheriff complete a mandatory police academy training program. This could be a training program offered by the National Sheriff’s Association or an administrative school offered at the state level. Either choice is acceptable as long as it is finished by the end of the first year the deputy is on the job.

Get a Job as a Law Enforcement Officer, State Trooper, or Deputy

Before you make a run for the sheriff’s office, it’s important to have a little online training. Get a job as a law enforcement officer, state trooper, conservation officer, or deputy. This provides you with hands-on training and will give you a good indication of what your duties will be as a sheriff within your community.

If you can get a job as a deputy under the current sheriff, you will be able to see what happens in the sheriff’s office on a day-to-day basis. You will gain an understanding of all aspects of the job, not just those that have to do with police work. You will also be able to learn about the public administration side of things as well.

Prepare a Campaign to Run for the Sheriff’s Office

Once you have gained a little experience and have committed yourself to be a law enforcement officer, you can begin to put together a campaign to run for sheriff in your county. When preparing your campaign, you will need to establish a platform. This can be anything from how you plan on lowering the local crime rate or how you would like to improve the relationship between the public and local law enforcement.

Once you have your campaign, you will need to file your candidacy with your local government so your name can be put on the ballot. After you become an official candidate for your county sheriff’s office, you can begin to campaign. When you file, you will be given a list of guidelines you must follow when you are campaigning.

Win the Election and Become Sheriff

In order to become sheriff, you will need to win the election. You will need to get to know the people in your community. Share your ideas and debate your opponent. In order for the public to respect you as a candidate for public office, you will need to earn their trust and prove to them that you have their best interest at heart.

A proven track record of service and commitment to your community are two ways to get the public’s vote. Not everyone will agree with your point of view. That’s fine. Even though your viewpoints differ, showing respect and being a victim advocate who will work toward getting to the bottom of criminal activity instead of simply tolerating a situation.

Earn as Much On-the-Job Training as Possible

Work with a field training officer if you can. You will learn more in the field about tactics and strategies than you will in a classroom. If you hire on as a deputy, the on-the-job training you receive will provide you with the skills you need to assess a situation and take appropriate measures to gain and then maintain control.

You may also be paired with a seasoned deputy for your first few weeks. Ask questions. Observe as much as possible. Always be mindful of your surroundings. As you begin to work on your own, be ready to take on new challenges. Look at new opportunities as a way to grow as an officer.

Sharpen the Skills You Will Need to Become an Effective Sheriff

To be an effective and successful sheriff, you will have to be able to prove you have the following skills:

  • Effective problem-solving skills
  • Active and responsive listening skills
  • Quick thinking
  • Ability to negotiate to find a workable solution
  • Calm under pressure, especially in a hostile environment

You must be able to perform the tasks of many different positions, including those of a criminal investigator, corrections officer, and even a patrol officer.

As a sheriff, you will lead by example. Everything you say and do will be under a magnifying glass. The actions of the deputies who are under your management will be a direct reflection of your leadership abilities. Good or bad, they will be a product of your leadership and management practices.

Salary and Future Outlook for a County Sheriff

The salary of a county sheriff will primarily depend on their geographic location. Smaller communities in the Midwest will have a lower salary range than a large metropolitan area like Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York City. On average, however. The U.S Department of Labor states that on average a sheriff and the deputies under him/her will make approximately $61,00 per year. The job outlook for a opportunities will increase slightly over the next five years.

A sheriff with many years of experience may be offered a higher wage, but this will depend on the county’s budget and other law enforcement needs. Raises or new opportunities may be offered as you continue to grow and become more comfortable with your duties. Working with the community can be a very fulfilling opportunity and will give you a sense of accomplishment.

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