Monday, June 4, 2012

Need a LEO? How about a Sheriff?

Okay, so you're writing a crime story of some sort.  Might be a mystery.  Might be a suspense.  Perhaps a cozy. With lots of romance.  Or not.  But you need a local law enforcement officer. 

Well, that would be someone from the local police department, right?  Maybe.  Or you might want to go with a Sheriff or a deputy. 

What's the difference?

A sheriff is generally (but not always) the highest, usually elected, law-enforcement officer of a county. He may or may not be trained in law enforcement.  Once elected, the sheriff appoints/hires deputies to carry out the duties of the office.

Chiefs of police usually are municipal employees who owe their allegiance to a city. Chiefs are usually appointed by the Mayor of a city; or, they may be appointed by or subject to the confirmation of a Police Commission.  Members of the police department of that city report to the chief or someone under his command.


A sheriff and his deputies have jurisdiction anywhere in the county where he is elected to serve, including all towns and cities located within the county, even if the town or city has a police department and a chief of police. The jurisdiction of the police department is limited to their town or city.  The sheriff also assumes the law-enforcement duties in unincorporated areas, towns or cities that don't have a police force.

Deputies may serve as police officers or they may work in the county jails, courtrooms, and in the civil process department (which handles delivery of civil papers such as jury summons, subpoenas, divorce decrees, etc.).  Only members of the sheriff's office can serve civil papers.

Most larger sheriff officers (or departments) have both uniformed and plain-clothes officers (detectives).  Some sheriffs also serve as coroner.

So next time you're looking for a local LEO for your story, think about the local PD but don't overlook the Sheriff's Office.

Have you ever used a sheriff or a deputy in one of your stories?

Groaner of the Day: Snow White received a camera as a gift. She happily took pictures of the Dwarfs and their surroundings. When she finished her first batch she took the film to be developed. After a week or so she went to get the finished photos. The clerk said the photos were not back from the processor.

She went back again the next week, but again her pictures were not ready. 

By the third week, she was feeling quite distraught and when told the photos still weren't ready, she began to cry.

The clerk, trying to console her, said, "Don't worry, Princess. Some day your prints will come".

23 comments:

Linda G. said...

{{{Groan!}}}

Haven't used a sheriff in a book yet, but who knows? Anything is possible.

Todd said...

Thinking about calling the sheriff and reporting your groaners.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Since Snow White and the Huntsman came out this past weekend, your groaner is perfect timing!

Maria Zannini said...

In Texas, the state police wear cowboy hats, so we affectionately call them, cowboys.

And when we get pulled over, we call them...sir. :)

Stephen Tremp said...

Excellent post! In my first book I used sheriff's deputies in a high speed pursuit of one of the bad guys (actually, a girl) who ends up getting away. They used cars, a helicopter, the full on dragnet.

We have mainly sheriff's deputies where I live and it was fun researching the various departments so I could get the finer details correct.

LD Masterson said...

Linda - Ah, got you with the groaner.

LD Masterson said...

Todd - Aw, come on - you know you love them.

LD Masterson said...

Alex - It's actually a very old groaner but it did seem to fit.

LD Masterson said...

Maria - Smart lady. When my boys first starting driving I told them if they ever get pulled over, every word out of their mouth better have sir or ma'am attached.

LD Masterson said...

Stephen - The problem I ran into researching sheriffs/deputies was how much their offices, duties, etc. vary from place to place. But it was definintely interesting.

Cate Masters said...

I haven't used law enforcement in a story - at least, the earthly kind. :)
In Pennsylvania, we also have constables, which are an odd man out sort of law enforcement.

LD Masterson said...

Hmmm. Constables. Now I need to do a little research on them.

Clarissa Draper said...

This is really good information to have. Thanks for the research.

Love the groaner.

Lydia Kang said...

Groan! *chuckles*

Great post! I really don't understand any of that jurisdiction/classification/stuff about LEO!

Nancy Thompson said...

Big groan!

In my town, the city police are actually contracted out to the county sheriff. Make sense out of that one.

Angela Brown said...

I haven't used this for a story, but I can see this being a pretty interesting matter when it comes to investigations. Who has jurisdiction first on a case? If a sheriff runs across an issue, do they hold jurisdiction or do they pass it along to the city PD?

Writing-wise, I can see this working as a tool for tension.

LD Masterson said...

Clarissa - Thanks. And I'm glad you enjoyed the groaner.

LD Masterson said...

Lydia - I didn't either until I started digging into it a bit. Lots of possibilities there.

LD Masterson said...

Nancy - Now that's an arrangement I didn't come across in my research.

LD Masterson said...

Angela - Lots of stories get into the local cops agruing jurisdiction with federal one but this gives you a lot more options for a story.

Tara Tyler said...

so do some areas have both? and does the sheriff trump the chief? hmmm, very interesting!

and, haw haw haw =)

LD Masterson said...

Tara - a lot of areas have both. I think who trumps who depends on the situation.

Jemi Fraser said...

big groan on that one!!!

I didn't realize sheriff's offices worked that way - thanks for the tip! That might work in my next story which is set in a small town (at least it might be...)