Franklin County Sheriff


Shire - An administrative subdivision. A county in England
Reeve - A local administrative agent of an Anglo-Saxon king


Deputy Thomas Ward

1971 Plymouth

Deputy Mark Emmert

1997 Crown Victoria

Sheriffs trace their heritage back to ninth century England when the King had a personal representative in each Shire (a Shire was the equivalent of an American County) whose title was the Shire Reeve. A medieval English manor officer responsible chiefly for overseeing the discharge of feudal obligations, with a local official charged with enforcement of specific regulations. The title Shire Reeve evolved into a single word: Sheriff.

Shire Reeves executed royal writs and were not only responsible for the police and jails, but also for collecting taxes. Their responsibilities as magistrates and chief law enforcement officers gave them broad duties and powers, but they did not have to act alone. Each English citizen was required to get involved in keeping the peace.

When English subjects came to the New World, they brought the traditions of the English criminal justice system, including the office of the Sheriff. From 1608 to 1783, American Sheriffs were usually large landowners appointed by the colonial governors. With only slight modification, they performed almost the same duties as their counterparts in England. The Chesapeake Sheriff of early Maryland settlements not only policed the counties but also was the chief financial officer who collected taxes and fees and kept 10 percent of the proceeds.

Around 500 AD, Germanic tribes from Europe (called the Anglo-Saxons) began an invasion of Celtic England, which eventually led over the centuries to the consolidation of Anglo-Saxon England as a unified kingdom under Alfred the Great late in the 9th Century. Alfred divided England into geographic units called "shires", or counties.

In 1066, William the Conqueror defeated the Anglo-Saxons and instituted his own Norman government in England. Both under the Anglo-Saxons and under the Normans, 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" or King's representative in each county 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 year 1000 AD. He still will have the same function in Florida in the year 2000 AD. The concepts of "county" and "Sheriff" were essentially the same as they had been during the previous 900 years of English legal history. Because of the English heritage of the American colonies, the new United States adopted the English law and legal institutions as its' owner. Clearly, the Sheriff is the only viable officer remaining of the ancient offices, and his contemporary responsibility as conservator of the peace has been influenced greatly by modern society. As the crossbow gave way to the primitive flintlock the Sheriff is not unaccustomed to change. But now, perhaps more than ever before in history, law enforcement is faced with complex, moving, rapid changes in methodology, technology, and social attitudes. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in his THE VALUE OF CONSTITUTIONS, "the Office of Sheriff is the most important of all the executive offices of the county."

In North Carolina, the office of the Sheriff has been traced back to 1739. It said that it was created in response to public demand and quickly became one of the most important and influential positions in local government. The Sheriff of that era had many of the traditional executive, administrative and law enforcement duties he has today. As a peace officer, he had the full right of "posse comitatus." The power was to call out every man between 15 and 80, excluding only the clergy and infirm, in case of emergency.

The Sheriffs of America have played a significant role in the history of our Nation, and the Sheriffs of Ohio are no exception to this heritage. A brief study of the history of Ohio reveals that Ohio Sheriffs have contributed greatly to the development of the Buckeye State.

Until Ohio achieved statehood in 1803, the position of Sheriff was filled through appointments made at the pleasure of the Colonial Governor. The first Sheriff on the record in Ohio was Colonel Ebenezer Sproat. At the time he was appointed in 1788, Colonel Sproat's jurisdiction covered all of Washington County. This enormous area of land included all of eastern Ohio from the Ohio River to Lake Erie.

After statehood became a reality, only three public offices in Ohio were filled through the electoral process system. The position of Sheriff was one of them. Through this new system, William Skinner became the first elected Sheriff in the Buckeye State. Since the early 1800's, the people they serve have elected Ohio Sheriffs on the county level. By virtue of this process, this office has become the oldest law enforcement position in the United States. It is also the only remaining law enforcement office which is filled through the election method. The term of office for County Sheriffs in Ohio is four years.

In each of the 88 counties of Ohio, the Sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer. His primary duties are to provide common pleas court services and corrections on a countywide basis, and full police protection to the unincorporated areas of the county; however, he also maintains full police jurisdiction in all municipalities, townships, and villages. In an effort to become consistent on a statewide level, Ohio Sheriffs and Deputies wear a standardized uniform, and all patrol vehicles are marked in the same manner.

Within Ohio, Sheriff's Offices have probably one of the most extensive sets of responsibilities to those they serve. By statute they must provide the following: Line Law Enforcement, Court Security, Service of Papers, Jail Operations, Extradition Process and Transportation of Prisoners.