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History of the Sheriff's Office

Origins of the office

The origin of the Office of Sheriff can be traced to England and the time of the Norman conquest in 1066. For community security, neighbors were grouped in tythings and pledged to help their fellow citizens in a time of need. Tythings or groups of 10 were arranged into shires or groups of 100. These shires were similar to today's counties, and were under the supervision of the Shire Reeve appointed by the King. The name Shire Reeve gradually evolved into Sheriff. 

In 17th century America, the English system of Law Enforcement with the Sheriff was easily adapted to the colonies. The Sheriff was appointed by the Governor and later became an elected office. Today, all sheriffs in Maryland, and all but 10 of 3000 nationwide, are elected by the residents of their jurisdiction. 

The Office of Sheriff first appeared in Maryland with the appointment of Lord William Baldridge as Sheriff of St. Mary's County in 1634. The first Sheriff to serve the citizens of Frederick County was John Thomas from 1748 to 1750. Since Sheriff Thomas, 80 Sheriffs have served the citizens of Frederick County. 

The Sheriff, the only law enforcement officer mentioned in our state constitution, is the chief law enforcement office of the county. Maryland's constitution calls for an elected Sheriff for each county and Baltimore. The Sheriff is the only law enforcement officer directly accountable to the voting public. 

Frederick's Sheriff Today

Frederick County Sheriff's Office is a full service Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff provides law enforcement services to the unincorporated portions of our county, support to municipal law enforcement agencies, provides security and various other support functions for the courts, and maintains the county jail. The Sheriff is the only official that serves all 3 segments of our criminal justice system; law enforcement, the courts, and corrections. 

The Sheriff's term of office is set at 4 years with no limit on the number of consecutive terms that may be served. Powers of the Sheriff and salary are set by the state legislature. 

The Sheriff's Office is divided into 2 bureaus each commanded by a Bureau Chief. The Law Enforcement Bureau consists of three divisions - Administrative Services, Support Services, and Operations. The Administrative Services Division consists of fiscal services, training services, and technology.  The Support Services Division consists of personnel services, facility & fleet management, background investigations, records, fingerprinting, and the public information specialists. The Operations Division consists of Special Operations, Patrol Operations, and Judicial Operations. Special Operations oversees criminal investigations, special assignment section, evidence, crime analysis, and special services team. Patrol Operations oversees patrol teams, K-9 unit, traffic unit, and community deputies. Judicial Operations oversees civil process unit, court security, child support enforcement, and alarms/permits unit.


The Corrections Bureau is where you will find the detention center, work release programs, alternative sentencing, and prisoner transportation. 

Responsibilities of the Sheriff's Office

Law Enforcement

The law enforcement function is the most visible arm of the Sheriff's Office. As the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the county, the Sheriff is responsible to the citizens of Frederick County for the provision of all facets of law enforcement. This includes the enforcement of traffic and criminal laws, conducting criminal investigations, responding to citizen complaints, directing community relations and education programs, and the provision of crime prevention measures. 

Court Security

The security of the courts is the responsibility of the Sheriff. The Sheriff's Office provides security for judges, juries and witnesses during trial sessions of the Circuit, District and Juvenile courts. It is the duty of the Sheriff to provide physical security for the county's various courtrooms and courthouse.

Service of Court Papers

The Sheriff's Office is responsible for the processing and serving of all legal papers issued by the Circuit and District courts. The processing and serving of legal papers sent to Frederick County from any legal agency in the United States is also the responsibility of the Sheriff's Office. 

Court Ordered Sales

As an arm of the Court, the Sheriff also must carry out judgments of the Courts against those citizens who fail to pay debts the Court has determined they owe. Though often an unpleasant task, at the direction of the court, the Sheriff must seize personal property and sell it at auction to satisfy the claims of a creditor. 

Transportation of Prisoners

The custody and security of prisoners during transportation between places of confinement and the courts is another responsibility of the Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff is responsible for all prisoner transportation to and from state institutions and funerals of family members. After conviction and sentencing, the Sheriff's Office must transport prisoners to the Maryland Reception and Diagnostic Center before the offenders confinement. Juveniles are also transported by the Sheriff's Office on court orders to various juvenile facilities in the state. 

Care & Custody of Prisoners

An additional duty of the Sheriff is to provide for the care and custody of persons in the county jail. These may be defendants awaiting trial, or those sentenced by the courts to serve up to 18 months in the county jail. As a result of overcrowding in state facilities, state prisoners are sometimes housed in the county jail for a fee. Inmate services include:

  • Counseling

  • Educational programs

  • Medical Care

  • Provision of meals

  • Recreation

  • Religious Services

  • Substance Abuse Treatment Program

  • Work release program

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