US Police - difference between Sheriff and City police?

As a Brit, I am puzzled as to what is the difference between the Sheriff's Dept., the US Marshals and the City Police Departments. Can any kind American pls enlighten me? Thank you!

9 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    In a nutshell as this could get lengthy

    A lot of it has to do with jurisdiction. City Police Departments are a municipality and they only enforce laws with in the confines of the city limits.

    Sheriff's Departments are a county organization and they often are burden with the additional tasks of housing inmates (IE Jails) serving civil process and subpoena's, warrants and such (basically the right hand of the court) in addition to basic handling of calls for service like city officers.

    When someone refers to a sheriff's department they are referring to a broader scope of authority and tasks within the law enforcement community.

    Moving up to US Marshal you are just stepping up to a Federal Jursiticion. These guys primarily are responsible for executing warrants and finding people all throughout the states that otherwise would quickly be able to leave the safe confines of the jurisdiction in which they are running from.

    Oh and a major difference betwen City Officer and Sheriff's Dept. is Sheriff's are an elected position, hence some people see them more as serving the people compared to City Chief who is selected by commisioners and there to pretty much stay through the thick of it.

    Source(s): I'm a Deputy!
  • 4 years ago


    Source(s): Criminal Records Search Database -
  • 1 decade ago

    This can get complicated.

    For example: The State of Connecticut has Municipal or Town police and State Police.

    The municipal police have jurisdiction over the city/town they're in while some town police work in relatively rural areas. For towns that do not have an organized police department the State Police cover that area or town.

    His some states yo have Sheriff Departments which cover the county area and the city or town police handle the urban areas. Some state police departments in other states work on major highways and thruways handling traffic violaters and other states have a Bureau of Investigation which investigates major crimes in the state. Sometimes in conjunction with the city police if the crime occurred in their jurisdiction.

    Confused still?

    The U.S. Marshalls are a branch of the Federal Government. Even in the days of the old west they were goverment paid and were the law in the new territories. Now they primarlily guard prisoners in federal prisoners or protect federal witnesses. The FBI is another federal law enforcement branch.

    The military has their own as well. In the Army and Marines you have the military police and CID...criminal Investigative Division (for the army) and NCIS (Naval criminal Investigative Service..formally NIS) for the Marines and Navy.

    Source(s): If this still isn't clear...e-mail me and I'll explain in more detail.
  • 4 years ago

    Sheriffs themselves are elected county officials. If almost all cases they have court services and corrections for the County. In most counties they also have police. They main patrol function is to patrol the unincorporated areas of a county doing police work like any other police department. They also contract with smaller municipalities for police protection, sometimes only at night when the municipality has a one or two man force during the day. As far as county sheriff police go they normally patrol a larger less populated areas than municipal police do. Many, like LASD cover areas that are densely populated areas. LASD, the ones you usually see on TV fiction shows, is the fourth largest police department, right behind LAPD, in the US. In my state they have full police powers throughout the county and in all counties that abut their county. City cops have full police powers in their city and any town or village that abuts their city, not even the whole county.

  • What do you think of the answers? You can sign in to give your opinion on the answer.
  • 1 decade ago

    OK that's easy enough to do.

    In America as in England, we have Counties.

    You have Suffolk, Essex, Devon, Somerset, etc.

    The police are responsible for law enforcement inside city limits.

    The sheriff's department is responsible for law enforcement in the county.

    In British terms, the Police would be responsible for law enforcement inside Plymouth.

    The Sheriffs department would be responsible for law enforcement inside Devon, except for Plymouth itself.


    There are no hard and fast rules.

    Some police departments handle law enforcement for the entire county.

    Some sheriff's departments handle law enforement for the cities inside the county too.

    Some counties with large cities have changed to a metro type government that combines the city and county together.

    The sheriff's departments have a long history in america.

    Sheriff was the first elected office in America.

  • J.W.
    Lv 7
    5 years ago

    Municipal police work for municipalities such as towns or cities, county police and deputy sheriffs work for counties, state police work for states, and federal police work for the federal government. Some have the same duties as one another or very similar duties, and some have different or additional duties. Their jurisdiction is sometimes the main difference. For example, a municipal police officer normally has primary jurisdiction only in the town he or she works for, and a county police officer normally has primary jurisdiction only in the county he or she works for.

  • CGIV76
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    It all pertains to jurisdiction. The answer is usually within the name itself, and all agencies work together if necessary. The Sheriffs department usually works within the county, and court system.

    Source(s): Me, retired Police Officer
  • 1 decade ago

    Sherrifs are funded by the county, City police are funded by the city, and US Marshals are funded by the federal government...

  • 1 decade ago

    police department enforce the laws in public, for each jurisdiction, city, county

    sheriffs department deals with jails, courts, inmates, document service, and fugitives for the corresponding county or city

    u.s. marshalls deal with federal inmates, felons, fugitives

Still have questions? Get answers by asking now.