Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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May 24, 2013

ASK THE SHERIFF: Sheriff explains his job and the tasks of his deputies

Two weeks ago I indicated that I would write further on the controversy of the Second Amendment. However, I believe this paper and others have sufficiently reported on my views on the matter. Contact me if you wish to discuss the matter further. Let’s move on to other topics.

I have been asked: What are the duties and responsibilities of a sheriff? What is the difference between a sheriff and a chief of police? What are the day-to-day tasks of the sheriff and his employees?

The sheriff is the highest elected local law enforcement officer in the nation. Nearly every county in the United States has a sheriff. Indiana has 92 counties and sheriffs. Nationwide, there are approximately 3,100 sheriffs. In Indiana, the office of sheriff is established by the Indiana Constitution and stipulates a four-year term, with a maximum of two consecutive terms.

In Elkhart County, whether you reside within city or town limits, or in a rural area of the county, all registered voters can affect electing your county sheriff. Contrary to contemporary belief, the sheriff is not just a role for outside of municipal limits. The sheriff has jurisdiction throughout the county, including inside any municipal limits.

A chief of police is an appointed position, typically by a city’s mayor or a board of public works. In some parts of the country, a turf battle can occur between sheriffs and police chiefs. Fortunately, the relationship here is excellent and collaborative with the Goshen and Elkhart police departments, as well as smaller area departments.

The sheriff has the following duties per Indiana Code 36-2-13-5: arrest persons who commit an offense within the sheriff’s view; suppress breaches of the peace, calling the power of the county to the sheriff’s aid if necessary; pursue and jail felons; serve or execute all process directed to the sheriff by legal authority; attend and preserve order in all courts of the county; and operate the county jail and care for the prisoners therein.

Indiana law additionally specifies that the sheriff maintain records, facilitate the sex offender registry within the county, serve state tax warrants, conduct sheriff sales on foreclosed homes and issue handgun permits. In Elkhart County, when someone calls 9-1-1 or needs help, particularly outside the municipal limits, the sheriff gets the calls.

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