What is a sheriff?
Updated: Apr 28
In the 9th century, Alfred the Great divided England into geographic units called “shires” (or counties). In 1066, the King of England appointed a representative called a “reeve” to act on behalf of the king in each shire or county. The “shire-reeve” became the “Sheriff” as the English language changed over the years. The shire-reeve or Sheriff was the chief law enforcement officer of each county. In the United States today, there are 3,083 sheriffs and approximately 98 percent of them are elected by the citizens of their county or perish.
Indiana’s first constitution, adopted in 1816, created the office of Sheriff as an elected official in each county.
According to the constitution of the state of Indiana (Article 6, Section 2)…
“There shall be elected, in each county by the voters thereof, at the time of holding general elections, a Clerk of the Circuit Court, Auditor, Recorder, Treasurer, Sheriff, Coroner, and Surveyor, who shall, severally, hold their offices for four years; and no person shall be eligible to the office of Clerk, Auditor, Recorder, Treasurer, Sheriff, or Coroner more than eight years in any period of 12 years.”
Therefore, the office of sheriff is established by the Indiana Constitution and governed by laws of the state of Indiana (IC 36-2-13-5). The Sheriff is a unique position in that he/she is accountable to the voters of the county. In future posts, I will talk about the responsibilities of the modern day Sheriff.