Rethinking the Office of Sheriff, particularly in light of defanging the "Constitutional Sheriffs" movement

While I don’t care for the some of the left’s notions on policing, neither do I care for this notion of Constitutional Sheriffs, an idea rooted in sovereign citizen nonsense and without merit. Nor do I care for some of the clowns (Mack, Arpaio, Ivey to name just a tiny few) who are or were engaged in this nonsense.

Sheriffs are only what either their State Constitution or statutory law creates them to be. They do not have “Supreme Law Enforcement Power” that they claim and certainly are not supreme over Federal law enforcement, despite their claims to the contrary. Federal law enforcement has absolutely zero obligation to inform local sheriffs of Federal investigations going on in their county, contrary to Constitutional Sheriff mythology. While (under the anti-commandeering doctrine) county and municipal law enforcement have no obligation to actively assist Federal law enforcement, neither do they have the slightest authority to interfere with Federal investigations. And they do have the obligation to PASSIVELY assist Federal law enforcement, by turning over any requested documents, evidence or other information that might assist the Federal investigation.

Search “Constitutional Sheriffs” on Google and you have more than enough resources to understand this issue.

The Office of Sheriff came from the English institution of Shire Reeve, who collected taxes and enforced the King’s orders. In the United States, it has for the most part lost tax collection functions in favor of general law enforcement.

Counterintuitively, the fact that most Sheriffs are elected ultimately results in little to no effective oversight. There are 3,200+ Sheriffs in the United States, most in small rural counties where they are typically elected with little or no opposition. Most have no formal oversight from the county government and little oversight from the State.

The result is clowns like Mack, Arpaio, etc. who act with impunity and thumb their noses at the law. But many go further and simply refuse to enforce law which (in their sole opinion) are supposedly unconstitutional. Except this is not their judgement to make. That belongs to the courts.

And there simply is no need for elected law enforcement Strip the Sheriff’s Office of law enforcement duties entirely and incorporate the Sheriff into the judicial branch of government as I outline below. Create a county police department, headed by an appointed police chief who is accountable to the county government.

My home State of Pennsylvania is traditionally a restricted service Sheriff state, where Sheriffs handle only process serving, court house security and bailiff services. A couple of counties have switched to appointed Sheriffs and I believe Allegheny County has actually implemented the county police department idea.

I would go a wee bit further.

The solution lies in amending State Constitutions to redefine the Office of Sheriff, something can be done by initiative in a number of States. (Note that Alaska and Connecticut do not have Sheriffs.)

My own solution, pulled from a draft constitution. (Alabama is used here, but this is just a template, meant to be applicable to any State.)

§ 10. [Marshals, Sheriffs, Clerks, District Attorneys and Public Defenders] (text related to Clerks, District Attorneys and Public Defenders omitted)

The Supreme Court, each division of the Court of Appeal and each division of the Superior Court shall appoint a Marshal, who shall possess such qualifications as the Alabama Legislature may by law prescribe and who shall serve at the pleasure of their respective appointing court. The Marshal shall enforce the orders of his respective court, with the power to deputize any sworn law enforcement officer in the State to assist him in this purpose and shall perform such other duties as the Supreme Court shall by rule prescribe. Additionally, the Marshal of each Superior Court shall serve concurrently as Marshal of all County Courts within the Superior Court district, but shall answer only to the Judges of the Superior Court for the performance of his duties. The Marshal of each Superior Court shall have the exclusive power to take such bail as a Court of Alabama shall direct or to issue bonds for bail in the State of Alabama. No private bail bond services shall exist in the State of Alabama.

The Marshal of each Superior Court district shall appoint a Sheriff for each county within his district, such Sheriff to serve at the pleasure of the Marshal. The Sheriff and deputy sheriffs shall be sworn peace officers of the State of Alabama and shall meet the requirements of the State of Alabama for sworn peace officers. The Sheriff shall have overall control of the county jail and other county detention and correctional facilities. The Sheriff shall be responsible for the service and return of all criminal and civil process in his respective county. Neither the Sheriff nor his deputies shall have any general law enforcement function, but may make arrests for crimes committed in their presence and shall serve and make return on arrest warrants. At the direction of any Marshal of the State of Alabama, the Sheriff or his deputies shall recover the body of any person who shall have forfeited bail and become a fugitive from justice. Private bounty hunting shall be forever illegal in the State of Alabama. The Sheriff shall provide security and bailiff services as directed by his Marshal for any Superior Court facilities located in his county and for his County Court. If a division of the Court of Appeal be located in his county, the Sheriff shall, at and under the direction of the Marshal of the Court of Appeal, provide security and bailiff services for that court. The cost of all Sheriff services, except for the administration of the county jail, shall be borne in full by the State of Alabama. The cost of administration and capital improvements for any county jail and other county detention and correctional facilities shall be borne by the respective county.

Essentially, this constitutional text reduces the Sheriff’s Office to a restricted service agency, such as is currently found only in the northeast. No general law enforcement or investigatory power. Serves process, serves as bailiffs, runs the county jail and related duties. Also puts Sheriffs solidly in the judicial branch of government as the enforcement arm of the courts.

Instead of being an elected official, the Sheriff would instead be an inferior Officer of the Court, serving under a Marshal who would be a principal Officer of the Court.

Each county would establish a Police Department to assume the general law enforcement functions being given up by the Sheriff’s Office. It would be headed by an appointed Police Chief who would answer to the county government.

Initially, Sheriff’s deputies would choose in order of seniority whether they wanted to stay with the Sheriff’s Office or go to the Police Department. Once the relatively small number of Sheriff’s deputies slots were full, the remaining individuals would go to the Police Department. Thereafter, they would hire and fire independently.

This would put an end, both to the issue of the Constitutional Sheriff and to the undue influence most Sheriffs currently have. Additionally, it would improve law enforcement accountability.

There are a few other law enforcement reforms I would make, most notably the end of qualified immunity.

Also, it probably will improve overall efficiency, by separating pure law enforcement functions from the more specialized functions of a restricted Sheriff service.

And, while we are at it, we can deep-six constables, in those jurisdictions that still have that very obsolete office.

Sorry about the length.

This has been incubating several days and I didn’t realize it had gotten that long.


That’s going to take awhile for me to digest…

Didn’t mean for it to get quite so long.

But this whole Constitutional Sheriff thing is becoming a major issue across the country, with some State Legislature pushing in either direction on the issue.


How about a summary of less than 50 words …

  1. Abolish the Office of Sheriff as it currently exists in most places.
  2. Create an appointed Sheriff within the State Judiciary for each county, responsible to the Judiciary, not the county. Such Sheriff would be bailiff, court security, serve process, run the jail, but NO general law enforcement function.
  3. Create a county level police department in each county, responsible to the county government and run by an appointed police chief.

Two words … States Rights

The Federal Government has no Constitutional Authority to do any of that.


First of all, there is no such thing as State’s rights, never has been never will.

Second of all, I am not taking about the Federal Government doing jack ■■■■■

This would be accomplished entirely at the State level.

Your State doesn’t have Sheriff’s anyway.


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Have you read the 10th Amendment?

Fifty States, fifty State Legislators, fifty different results.

Appointment instead of election sounds fishy to me.

Our ALLEGHENY County sheriff issues CCW permits.

Backhand slash at firearms IMO.

From what I have seen county sheriffs have been a fail safe on gun rights against municipal gun grabbers. Thus the pejorative…really.…Constitutional sheriffs.


Read the 10th again, states have powers not rights.

People have rights.

@Safiel is specifically talking about “The solution lies in amending State Constitutions…”.


Here in Texas we have elected Sheriffs and elected Constables. The Sheriff’s jurisdiction is the entire county, the Constable’s is the individual precinct within the county. Both of these agencies get their budgets from the Count Judge (commissioners’) council of their County. We will keep our system, but you are free to centralize control over your’s.


Another day, another campaign for big (D)addy to have more centralized power.



I have.

States do not have “rights.”

Nor does the Federal Government.

Nor animals.

Nor nature at large.

ONLY human beings have rights.


They do NOT have RIGHTS.

Which does NOT disagree with what I said. States will likely come to different solutions. But clearly change is needed with the unaccountable Office of Sheriff as it currently exists. There are a few other solutions. For example, making the Office of Sheriff appointable by the county government. Or perhaps establishing a county oversight board with authority discipline or remove a wayward Sheriff.

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This argument fails.

Counties would still have full control over their police departments.

The other duties of Sheriffs that are not law enforcement are judicial related duties and belong under the judiciary.

This is NOT an attempt to centralize power.

I oppose sanctuary cities as well.

Neither Sheriffs, nor any other jurisdiction, has the right to pick and choose the laws it will enforce or won’t enforce.

Regardless of whether the left or the right makes the claim.

The courts decide the law. End of story.

Semantics. The States (and the people therein) have a right to those unspecified powers.

If it is going to be implemented equally in all States, the Federal Government would have to force it … which they have no power or authority to do.

Regardless what you call it, the Federal Government has no power or authority to do anything to State Constitution that is not outlined specifically in the US Constitution.

And I’m very sure that the people in many States that have Sheriffs, would disagree with your proposal. It’s an academic exercise that will never be implemented across the nation if in any State.