Industry Research – Law Enforcement – A Look at the Organization of a Sheriff’s Department


A Look at the Organization of a Sheriff’s Department |

By Larry Slagel  |  senior vice president of sales at RecruitMilitary and a former captain in the United States Marine Corps  |

Published in the November/December 2010  issue of print Search & Employ®  |

To help acquaint veteran job seekers with job opportunities in law enforcement, I will describe the organizational structure of a fictional sheriff’s department. I base this description on the structure of several actual departments.

Name and jurisdiction. Our agency is known as the “sheriff’s department.” In other counties, the agency is called the “sheriff’s office.”

Our department has jurisdiction over our entire county, except for the cities and largest towns, which have their own police departments. The population of our county is about 85,000.

Leadership. The head of our department, the sheriff, is elected every four years. All other personnel are appointed. Reporting directly to the sheriff is the chief deputy. Two captains report to the chief deputy—the heads of the Operations Division and the Jail Division.

The Operations Division consists of the Patrol Bureau, the Detective Bureau, the Administrative Services Bureau, the Civil Process Bureau, and four special teams. The Operations Division Captain is also the head of the Patrol Bureau. Lieutenants lead the other three bureaus and three of the special teams.

The Patrol Bureau consists of three shifts, each headed by a lieutenant. A sergeant reports to each lieutenant, and eight deputies report to each sergeant. The Patrol Bureau carries out general law-enforcement duties, including traffic patrol, response to calls, and vice and narcotics enforcement.

The Detective Bureau consists of three squads, each made up of a sergeant and two deputies:

•  Crimes Against Persons, which deals with such crimes as homicide, sexual battery, child abuse, and armed robbery.

•  Financial and Computer Crimes, which handles such offenses as embezzlement, forgery, Internet fraud, identity theft, and use of the Internet to lure underage victims.

•  Property Crimes, which investigates such crimes as theft, auto theft, burglary, criminal mischief, and arson.

The Administrative Services Bureau consists entirely of non-sworn personnel. The head of the bureau has the title of bureau manager. Reporting to the bureau manager are three section managers: the leaders of the Records Section, which has two clerks; the Jail Division Support Section, with two clerks; and the General Support Section, with four clerks.

The Civil Process Bureau serves legal papers throughout our county. The officers in this bureau locate witnesses, identify people to be served, and serve court orders, writs, subpoenas, affidavits, summonses, and notices of hearings. In addition to the lieutenant who leads the bureau, there are two process servers. One is a deputy, and the other is non-sworn. In addition, there is a non-sworn clerk.

The special teams are the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team, the Crash Team, the Boat and Dive Team, and the School Resources Team. The leader of each team is called the coordinator.

•  The SWAT Team has 12 tactical officers and 3 negotiators. The tactical officers are drawn from the patrol shifts, based on the officers’ special training, experience, and scores on certain examinations—not on their rank or membership in a particular shift. The negotiators are detectives. The coordinator is a deputy drawn from the Patrol Bureau.

•  The Crash Team consists of a lieutenant, who is the coordinator; two crash reconstructionists, a sergeant and a deputy; and two investigators, a sergeant and a deputy. The coordinator is also the leader of the First Shift in the Patrol Bureau.

•  The Boat and Dive Team operates on all bodies of water throughout our county, including those within the cities and towns that have their own police departments. The team uses two patrol and rescue boats, one in a large lake and the other in our rivers.

The team consists of six full-time members and three officers who are also members of patrol shifts. The six full-time members make up the boat crews. Each crew consists of a sergeant and two deputies. The crews conduct boat inspections, investigate accidents, enforce boating laws, and educate boaters regarding those laws. One of the sergeants and one of the deputies are also divers.

The team coordinator is a lieutenant who is also the leader of the Third Shift in the Patrol Bureau. The remaining members of the team are a diver who is a deputy from the Patrol Bureau and a diver who is a detective.

•  The School Resource Team provides safety and security on school campuses; teaches  students, school staff, and parents about law-enforcement responsibilities and procedures; and works to strengthen relationships between students and law-enforcement officials. The team consists of a lieutenant, who is the coordinator, and three deputies. The lieutenant is the same officer who leads the Crash Team.

The Jail Division consists of the Jail Staff, the Work Release/GPS Bureau, the Kitchen Staff, and the Court Protection Bureau. The captain in charge of the division has the title of jail administrator. The assistant jail administrator (AJA), who is a lieutenant, reports to the captain. This lieutenant is also our agency’s juvenile detention specialist.

The Jail Staff has 3 shifts of 12 officers each, with the title of Correctional Officer II (CO II). Those officers maintain security and inmate accountability to prevent disturbances, assaults, and escapes. A sergeant leads each shift. In addition, six CO I trainees work with the various shifts as scheduled by the AJA.

Also on the Jail Staff is a classification officer, a sergeant. This individual classifies inmates according to established rules to put them into appropriate housing units, helps the AJA with such matters as disciplinary actions and court orders, assesses treatment needs, and monitors inmates’ jail time.

The Work Release/GPSBureau is led by a sergeant who reports to the AJA. Our department has a work-release facility in which offenders are confined but not locked. Those offenders are allowed to leave the facility, following a strictly enforced schedule, for purposes of work, education, child care, elder care, and treatment. Two CO II’s help the sergeant operate the facility and process the inmates.

The GPS offender tracking system uses the Global Positioning System satellites, ankle bracelets, and other electronic devices to monitor offenders who are under house arrest. Three CO II’s process the offenders and keep watch over the system.

Kitchen Staff. Our jail and work-release facility have a kitchen that is staffed by a head cook and seven cooks. All of the kitchen personnel are non-sworn.

The Court Protection Bureau is also led by a sergeant who reports to the AJA. The sergeant and three deputies protect the personnel in our county court house and fill the role of bailiff when court is in session. Two CO II’s escort offenders and the accused between court and the jail.

Sworn and Non-Sworn

Descriptions of jobs in law enforcement refer to “sworn personnel,” also known as “sworn officers” ; and to “non-sworn personnel,” or civilian employees. There are many definitions of “sworn personnel.” Commonly cited factors include:

•  They have taken an oath of office.

•  They have the power of arrest.

•  They are authorized to carry firearms.

•  They carry a badge.

Most sworn personnel are uniformed police officers and plain-clothes detectives. Most non-sworn personnel are correctional officers, probation officers, and members of office staffs and other support staffs.

About the Author

This article was written by Jay Myers