Sheriff’s offices’ functions significantly overlap with but are often somewhat different than those of police departments. Sheriff’s offices’ powers and responsibilities usually fall within four buckets:
They can serve a similar policing/patrol function as police departments, especially in rural and suburban areas. They often serve as officers in courts and schools.
They often run local jails.
They often provide criminal court security.
They often carry out the eviction process (although they do not determine who will be evicted) and perform other civil enforcement, such as issuing permits for concealed weapons or for protests.
Thus, most questions outlined above are relevant to analyzing sheriff’s office budgets. However, it will be especially important to determine what functions your sheriff’s office performs, which will often be mandated by state law.
In addition, Sheriffs are usually independently elected, which is significantly different than for police departments, whose commissioners, or senior ranking officers, are appointed, usually by mayors. Because of this, as well as powers enshrined to sheriffs under state constitutions, county elected officials often have less control and leverage over a sheriff department’s budget, power, and functions.
For more information, see Defund Sheriffs: A Toolkit for Organizers or Disbanding, Defunding, or Reforming Local Law Enforcement from Rick Su and the Local Solutions Support Center.