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HISTORY OF THE SHERIFF
There is no single date for the beginning of the first Sheriff. The position of Sheriff evolved over a period as the kingdom was "shired" into compact administrative units. The King James Version of the Holy Bible first mentions Sheriffs in the book of Daniel 3:2-3. Deputies are mentioned again in the New Testament. At that time, the Sheriffs were called on to put down a public riot. While it may not be clear what all the functions of the Sheriff were, it is evident that the Sheriffs were respected men, who had vested power from the King and authority to keep the peace.
In the Ninth and Tenth Centuries, the role and importance of the Sheriffs became more obvious. The whole constitutional, economical, judicial and administrative development was dependent on the office of the High Sheriff. The most ancient and longest continuous service to the Realm and the Crown is the office of High Sheriff. The Sheriff was Chancellor, home secretary, Secretary of State for Defense, and Minister of Agriculture. There were no police, no judges, not even magistrates, no inland revenue, no customs and excise. The Sheriff supervised everything on behalf of the King.
There are many thousands of sheriffs in the United States and Canada. Sheriffs in Australia, New Zealand, and India too, all owe their origins to King Alfred and Canute. The history of the American Sheriff began in 1634 when the settlements of Virginia were well established to allow for the replacement of the military regime by a civil government. The scattered settlements and plantations had been formed into shires on the English pattern, and the most important aspect of the American Sheriff’s office was his responsibility for keeping the peace. Today, the sheriff is firmly entrenched in the constitution of the various states.
The American Sheriff, an elected office of the people, functions much differently from the Sheriff who was appointed by the King. As you would expect, the American Settlers desired a Sheriff who served at their pleasure and not at the King’s pleasure. That is why the Sheriff today is an elected office of the people.
Although the American Sheriff may not have the same responsibilities as did the early King appointed Sheriff, he still holds the People’s Chief Law Enforcement Office in the County, in which he is elected. His duties are more than just Law Enforcement (peace keeper) or to enforce orders of the court.
One can understand now why the Sheriff’s Office is called, THE PUBLIC SERVICE OFFICE OF THE PEOPLE.
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