Difference Between Sheriff and Police

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A sheriff is a higher authority in charge of law enforcement for an entire county, unlike the police, who control a designated area of a town, county, or state.

What is a Sheriff? 

A sheriff is a public official elected by the people every four years. They are a county’s top law enforcement officer, i.e., ensuring that all local, state, and federal laws are followed. 

A sheriff has roles in law enforcement and is directly responsible for peace in the country. They have the authority to make arrests within their jurisdiction. 

Being a sheriff is a physically demanding, dangerous, and stressful role as it involves confrontations with criminals. Sheriffs often have to deescalate dangerous situations.

Sheriff vs police: sheriffs have higher authority for an entire county.
Sheriffs have a higher authority for an entire county.

What is a Deputy Sheriff?

A deputy sheriff is a professional law enforcement officer who works under the sheriff. Deputy sheriffs assist in leadership in overseeing the entire county. They work for the county sheriff’s office and collaborate with local police officers, FBI agents, or other law enforcement professionals if the case requires it.

If you want to become a deputy sheriff, consider beginning your career as a patrol officer in a location with lots of opportunities, like a city or town. 

Administrative Duties at the Sheriff’s Office

The sheriff’s office also has some managerial and clerical duties, for example:

  • Filling out paperwork on warrants and complaints
  • Training deputies
  • Managing the county jail
  • Writing and distributing the budget
  • Overseeing hiring
  • Maintaining and transporting prisoners
  • Accident investigations
  • Traffic control  
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Duties of a Sheriff

As a law enforcement officer, a sheriff has various public service, civil process, and criminal justice duties. Some of these tasks include:

  • Arresting a suspect
  • Controlling traffic
  • Enforcing laws
  • Responding to calls for service
  • Preparing cases and reporting to the court
  • Investigating crime scene
  • Collecting tax
  • Maintaining a list of criminals
  • Collecting evidence from the crime scene
  • Taking interviews of suspects, victims, and witnesses
  • Observing the activities of the suspects

What is a Police Officer?

Unlike a sheriff, a police officer is the first person citizens reach when something wrong or illegal happens to them. You’ll find police officers in a designated area of the county, state, or city limits.

The police are the government law enforcement workers who enforce the law and prevent crime (or civil disorder.) They are the ones who register First Information Reports (FIRs) and start investigations. 

Compared to a sheriff, a police officer is always appointed through a process involving training and examinations, followed by a physical test. Police officers represent the civil authority of the government and are different from the military. 

Members of the police department include police officers, constables, rangers, peace officers, civil guards, troopers, etc. Duties are assigned to each of them based on their rank in the department. 

Sheriff vs police: police officers are responsible for a designated area in a town, country, or state.

Police Services and Duties

Apart from power, a police force has various responsibilities and duties.

Police Duties:

  • To preserve and promote public safety
  • To protect internal security
  • Control terrorist activities
  • Uphold and enforce the law
  • Protect life, liberty, human rights, and dignity of the public
  • Protect public and government properties, including roads, railways, bridges, and government offices, from violence or attack 
  • Prevent crime, register FIR, issue arrest warrants, and take action accordingly 
  • Criminal investigations
  • Conduct interviews of suspect, victim, and witness
  • Facilitate orderly movement of vehicles on the road
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Chief of Police vs Sheriff

A chief of police can be appointed or elected within a municipality. A sheriff is usually the highest ranking within the law enforcement services of a county. The elected sheriff will collaborate with the city manager, city police, law enforcement agencies, and other public and private organizations.

Sheriff’s Deputy 

A deputy sheriff is a local law enforcement officer working to uphold and enforce the law within the country. 

 Difference Between Sheriff and Police

Sheriff vs Police
An officer who was given the charge of maintaining peace throughout the country  Meaning Refers to government officials who have the power to enforce the rule of law, protect public property, and prevent civil disobedience
Entire country or state Area Of Control Specific region or area
Elected by the citizen Selection Process Appointed by a government post via examination
Unlimited jurisdiction Degree Of Jurisdiction Limited jurisdiction
Government Accountable To Senior officers
Undergo training at the sheriff’s academy Training Undergo training at the police academy

Sheriff vs Police – Explaining the Differences

The key difference between police and sheriff is that the sheriff is considered a higher authority because they are accountable and responsible for maintaining the law in the entire country. In contrast, police officers are considered a lower authority because they are responsible for the safety and security of a specified area.

Meaning of Job

Sheriff is derived from the word shire reeve which means keeper. Sheriffs are elected officials who are responsible for keeping the peace throughout the country. 

On the other hand, a police officer refers to government officials responsible for enforcing the rule of law, maintaining the public property, and preventing civil unrest.

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Area of Control

While sheriffs control the entire country or state, a police officer has control over a specific region and area.

Election Process

Sheriffs are elected by the state’s citizens every four years, whereas a higher authority appoints police officers via regulated tests.

Degree of Jurisdiction

Sheriffs have unrestricted jurisdiction. In contrast, police officers have restricted jurisdiction. 


A sheriff is accountable to the government, whereas a police officer is accountable to his seniors.


A sheriff undergoes rigorous training at a sheriff academy, and a police officer undergoes the standard level of training at a police academy.   

Sheriffs and police officers have similar roles. However, there is a significant difference in their area of control, jurisdiction, and authority. Both are responsible for maintaining peace and law at their different levels.


Vanessa is passionate about written communication, especially after beginning her career as a middle school English teacher. She’s an experienced content marketer as well. Vanessa loves to analyze, compare, and contrast, which is why she writes for ContrastHub. Besides writing, Vanessa is a wife, mom, entrepreneur, spicy food enthusiast, comedy nerd and lifelong learner.

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