The Office of the Sheriff,
founded in 992, has its origins in Anglo Saxon times. The title 'Sheriff'
is derived from the word's 'Shire Reeve' because the Sheriff was the administrative
officer for each Shire or County in Medieval England. Indeed the office
is the oldest known to English law.
The Sheriff was the most
powerful person in the Shire and over the years had a variety of responsibilities.
Early Sheriff's collected revenue on behalf of the King and were responsible
for the apprehension of criminals.
After the Norman Conquest
of 1066 the Sheriff assumed responsibility for all departments of administration
in the counties. This period also saw the first juries and the commencement
of the Sheriff's responsibility for the administration of juries which
still remains today.
The power of the Sheriff
declined after the thirteenth century and the signing of Magna Carta in
1215. The power of the King was also reduced during this time, however
the Magna Carta still made significant reference to the office of Sheriff.
In the U.S. the Sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer of the county.