What does a Deputy Sheriff do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 06 April 2020
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A deputy sheriff is a sworn law enforcement officer working in unincorporated areas to keep the peace. The exact specifications of the job vary by jurisdiction. Generally, in order to be hired, people must be graduates of law enforcement academies. Having experience can help, but is not required. Many law enforcement academies have programs to help place their students after graduation with partnering law enforcement agencies.

The position of sheriff is somewhat variable by country. In some nations, sheriffs act as law enforcement officers, while in others, they may be involved in other activities, like overseeing courts. For the purpose of this article, the focus is on the role of the sheriff in law enforcement.

Incorporated areas usually have their own police forces, but unincorporated areas lack a police force and need people to patrol, offer assistance when calls for help are made, and conduct investigations. These can all be part of the responsibilities of a deputy sheriff. Deputy sheriffs can also assist coroners with the collection and processing of bodies and investigation of crime scenes. In some regions, they provide support at courthouses and jails with security and may also be available for security at events. By special arrangement, deputy sheriffs can also patrol small communities unable to afford their own police force.


This job is highly variable. While patrolling, a deputy sheriff can run into a variety of situations ranging from medical aid situations to crimes in progress, in addition to being diverted from patrol to answer calls for help. Deputy sheriffs need good people skills, as they interact directly with members of the public, and they also need to be skilled at making observations in the course of investigations. High ethical standards are expected of law enforcement officers in general, and deputy sheriffs in particular are granted a high degree of autonomy and must be able to work well alone.

In addition to being out in the field, a deputy sheriff can also be stationed behind a desk. Law enforcement officers generally have paperwork they need to complete as part of their work and they may also answer phones and handle walk-in requests for assistance. In some areas, sheriffs are tasked with serving legal documents on behalf of the court, another activity a deputy sheriff may be involved in. Being able to perform varied tasks in an assortment of settings is a job requirement, as is interacting with people from diverse backgrounds and with highly varied life experiences.


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Post 2

Do I understand correctly when I think that a deputy sheriff is what I think of as the county police?

I think that they can handle stuff in town if they need to, but they are more or less called out to the places where there are no town cops.

That’s who we have around my place, and I’ve got to say that they do a good job, but it takes them forever to get to a serious call nine times out of ten.

We’ve called and actually had to wait as long as an half hour for someone to get to our community. We only live ten minutes away from the station!

Post 1

My husband is currently a correctional officer for a maximum security prison, and he has seriously considered going into law enforcement. Particularly, he would rather work as a deputy sheriff than a local police officer.

I, admittedly, have a few reservations about this. He says that there isn’t that much difference in terms of safety when it comes down to the two jobs.

I argue that in a prison the inmates are known to be criminals – in other words, you know who to look out for. Also, they are locked up, more or less.

He says that this is true, but while they are locked up he is indeed locked up with them. He also points out

that correctional officers are very limited in how they are allowed to defend themselves.

I would surely appreciate a little input from any other folks in this type situation. There is great honor in being a law enforcement officer of any kind, but I do worry.

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