One difference between a sheriff's office and police department is the jurisdiction that each type of agency covers. While both sheriffs' offices and police departments are law enforcement agencies, sheriffs' offices have countywide jurisdiction and police departments' authority is limited to specific cities, municipalities, towns, or villages. In addition, sheriffs' offices are generally empowered by the state to serve counties and independent cities, while police departments are established under municipal regulations. The head of a sheriff's office is a sheriff who is usually an elected official. The head of a police department is usually the chief, who is typically appointed by a government entity, such as mayor, city manager, or a commissioner.
In 2020, about 14% of full-time sworn officers employed by local police departments and sheriffs’ offices were female. As of 2020, 4% of local police chiefs and 1% of sheriffs were female. About 9% of intermediate supervisors (those between chiefs and sergeants or first-line supervisors) in local police departments and 10% in sheriffs’ offices were female. About 10% of first-line supervisors (sergeants) in local police departments and 12% in sheriffs’ offices were female.
According to the 2020 BJS Law Enforcement and Management Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) survey, departments serving 100,000 to 249,999 and 50,000 to 99,999 residents had the lowest average ratio (1.6 officers per 1,000 residents). Departments serving populations of 1 million or more had 3.0 officers per 1,000 residents.
State and local general-purpose law enforcement agencies employed about 708,200 full-time sworn officers as of December 31, 2020. Approximately 11,800 local police departments employed 473,100 (67%) of these offices, sheriffs’ offices about 173,900 (25%), and state law enforcement agencies about 61,200 (9%).
No, some sheriff's office personnel are not sworn officers. While sheriffs' offices employed about 174,000 full-time sworn officers in 2020, some personnel had limited or no arrest authority. Sheriffs' deputies who work in jails, courtrooms, and the civil process department often do not attend police academies and do not have general arrest authority. These personnel may be civilian employees or deputies who attend specialized training for their duties. In 2020, the nation's sheriffs' offices employed about 191,000 full-time civilian employees.
In 2018, 86% of recruits completed basic training and 14% did not. Among the basic training outcomes measured, 4% of recruits did not complete basic training in 2018 because they voluntarily withdrew from their program, and 7% did not complete basic training for involuntary reasons (such as injury or illness, failure to qualify, or being withdrawn by their sponsoring agency). Eighty-eight percent of male recruits completed basic training in 2018, compared to 81% of female recruits.