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sheriff

n. the top law enforcement officer for a county, usually elected and responsible for police protection outside of incorporated cities, management of the county jail, providing bailiffs for protection of the courts, and such civil activities as serving summonses, subpenas and writs, conducting judgment sales, and fulfilling various functions ordered by the courts. The office was brought to the United States from England and is unknown in most nations which use federal and state police. Canada, for example, has the highly professional Royal Canadian Mounted Police (and its Quebec equivalent) to serve for most non-municipal law enforcement. The position of sheriff has been criticized as lacking training standards, being overly political, not being coordinated with other jurisdictions, and being hampered by its lack of authority beyond the county line except when in "hot pursuit" of a suspect who crosses the county line. The sheriff's uniformed police are called "deputy sheriffs," with the number two person often entitled "under sheriff."

See also: bailiff  sheriff's sale 

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The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications