Difference Between Sheriff and Police

The government has to ensure the maintenance of law and stability in a country. The government gives this responsibility to its officials who take the necessary steps for maintaining the rule of law in the country. Sheriff and police are two types of government officials who are given charge of this important duty.

Sheriff vs Police

The main difference between sheriff and police is that sheriffs are considered to be a higher authority, whereas police are considered to be a lower authority. Sheriffs are accountable and responsible for the maintenance of law in the entire country, whereas a police officer is responsible for the safety and security of a specified area.

Sheriff and Police

The word sheriff is derived from the word “shire reeve.” It means a royal officer who was given the charge of maintaining peace throughout the kingdom. In many countries, Sheriffs are given the charge of being administrative, legal officials. They have the power to preside over the court sessions and pass judgment regarding bails, trials, etc.

A police force refers to a constituted body of officers who have the power to enforce the rule of law, protect public property, and prevent civil disobedience. They have the right to use force to suppress a revolt against the state. They have the right to exercise their power within a well-defined area or region.

Comparison Table Between Sheriff and Police

Parameters of ComparisonSheriffPolice
MeaningSheriff refers to a legal official who has a responsibility to ensure the rule of law and order in a particular country.A police officer refers to a person who has been empowered by the government to enforce the rule of law in a country by minimizing civil disorder and protecting public property.
Area of ControlSheriffs generally have control of the entire state. Their area of responsibility and control may differ from country to country.Police generally have control over a particular region and area as specified by the upper authorities.
PositionSheriffs are superior in position to a police officer as they are the highest law enforcing officers in a country.A police officer is less powerful than a sheriff since he has control over a given area.
Election processSheriffs are elected by the citizens of a state.A police officer is appointed to the post by the government.
JurisdictionThey have an unlimited jurisdiction.They have a limited degree of jurisdiction.
Area of responsibilityA sheriff is required to maintain law and order in the whole state, he also is a legal official who may pass judgments and give decisions on trials and various suits.The responsibility of a police officer is limited to maintaining law and order in his allotted area.

What is Sheriff?

A sheriff is an official who is responsible for maintaining peace and law in the entire country. They are generally elected, but in some countries, they may be selected based on their educational qualifications. Sheriffs are responsible for the administration and management of country jails and government buildings.

Many sheriff officers may also perform other functions like traffic regulation, accident, and homicide investigation. A Deputy sheriff refers to a regular officer of a sheriff’s office. A sheriff may also serve warrants and civil documents. A sheriff is also responsible for transferring offenders and criminals from jails to courts.

A sheriff’s work routine may be stressful, physically demanding, and highly dangerous. They are assigned to often work at highly critical accident and crime scenes. They have a superior post and jurisdiction when compared to the police officer.

He is also known as an Administrative legal officer who has the power to pass verdicts on various cases and suits. In the United States, every state has a sheriff’s office that has been built by the government. Except for Alaska, every state in the United States is looked over by a sheriff.

What is Police?

Police refers to a constituted body of officers who are responsible for maintaining law and order throughout the country. They are responsible for investigating various cases related to criminal and civil offenses. Every policeman has a common uniform that is given by the police department. There is a particular hierarchical order of the police.

In India, for instant action, the government has established multiple police stations in a district. Every area comes under a particular police station. The police officers in a particular area are responsible for maintaining law and order in that specific area. They have limited jurisdiction and are directly accountable to the upper authorities.

The major duties of police are:-

  • Promoting and preserving public order is a major duty of the police.
  • Protecting internal security by preventing riots, terrorist attacks, and other militant activities.
  • Protecting public property against any type of violence and unrest.
  • Reducing the rate of crime by taking adequate steps to ensure law and order.

Police officers are not allowed to grant bails and pass verdicts on various legal matters. In India, a person who wishes to become a policeman must pass a particular examination depending on the rank he wants to get placed in. For example, a person has to pass the UPSC examination to become an IPS officer, or if a person wishes to become a constable, he has to pass a comparatively easier examination. Passing the physical test is also a must for joining the police department.

Main Differences Between Sheriff and Police

  1. A sheriff is more powerful when compared to a police officer as the sheriffs have a wide range of jurisdictions, whereas police have a limited degree of jurisdiction.
  2. Sheriffs are responsible for maintaining law and order in the entire state, whereas police officers are responsible for maintaining law and order in a specified area.
  3. A sheriff is also known as a legal administrative officer, thus has the power to make decisions on various suits and cases. On the other hand, a police officer does not have the right to pass judgments.
  4. Sheriffs are elected by the citizens of the state, whereas a police officer is selected through a particular mode of examination that is followed by a physical test.
  5. A sheriff is accountable to the government or the concerned ministry, whereas a police officer is accountable to his senior.


For maintaining peace and law in a country, a government has to appoint various officials like sheriffs and policemen. Both of them perform more or less the same set of duties, but the jurisdiction of both the officials differs.

A sheriff is also known as an administrative, legal officer who has the power to pass judgment on various cases, whereas the sole duty of the police is to promote the rule of law in a specific area. In India, there are no sheriffs, but police have a proper hierarchical structure ranging from a DGP to a constable. In America, both sheriffs and police have an important role to play.


  1. https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/Digitization/113061NCJRS.pdf
  2. https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/appi.ps.201300451
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