The History of the Sheriff



The Office of Sheriff can be traced back to early England. The word “sheriff” was derived from the words “shire,” referring to a geographic area and “reeve,” commonly defined as guardian. Together, “shire-reeve” means guardian of the shire and evolved into the word sheriff as known today.

The Office of Sheriff is the oldest continuing, non-military, law enforcement entity in our nation’s history. Sheriffs differ from other law enforcement officers, because they are elected by the citizens in which they serve. All of Oregon’s sheriffs not only remain committed to improving public safety within their community, but they also represent the public safety interests voiced by their constituents.

Sheriffs are an integral part of the United States’ democratic process. As a part of our nation’s executive branch, Oregon sheriffs are responsible for execution of the law. Your elected county sheriff works alongside members of the legislative branch – responsible for creating law – and the judicial branch – responsible for determining the constitutionality of the law. Known as conservators of the peace, Oregon sheriffs’ roles are defined by law as follows.

  1. Arrest and commit to prison all person who break the peace, or attempt to break it, and all persons guilty of public offenses.
  2. Defend the county against those who, by riot or otherwise, endanger the public peace or safety.
  3. Execute the process and orders of the courts of justice or of judicial officers, when delivered to the sheriff for that purpose by other public officers, according to law.
  4. Execute all warrants deliver to the sheriff for that purpose by other public officers, according to law.
  5. Attend, upon call, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Oregon Tax Court, circuit court, justice court or county court held within the county, and obey its lawful orders or directions.

Together, Oregon’s 36 sheriffs work with the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association to not only promote public safety and preserve citizens’ constitutional rights, but to also creatively address issues within your community. Support your sheriff today as they work diligently to uphold the law.

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