History of the Sheriff/What We Do

The Office of the Sheriff

The Sheriff is an elected county official who is the county's chief law enforcement officer. The duties of a Sheriff (and his deputies) are broad; they are empowered to keep the peace, quell riots and disorders, transport prisoners for their appearance in court, enforce commitments of incarceration, serve civil process, execute bench warrants, enforce court orders, and assist other law enforcement agencies.

An integral part of the American Law Enforcement system, the history of the Office of the Sheriff goes back centuries and is one of self-government – with its earliest roots are in Pennsylvania. 

A Brief History of the Office of Sheriff

In 1634, the Office of the Sheriff was brought to the new colonies. Virginia was the first to establish its Office of the Sheriff. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania soon followed. 

This means William Penn, Proprietor and Governor in 1682, appointed the first Sheriff of Bucks County, Richard Noble. Afterward, justices would annually present the names of three persons to the Governor - one would be selected as Sheriff of the county. Until 1838, the Freemen of the county elected two candidates for the Governor to choose from as Sheriff. Likewise, the Constitution of 1838 made the Sheriff a purely elected officer. The candidate for Sheriff must have been a resident of the county and a citizen for at least one year before his election. He was not permitted to keep a tavern or reside in one.

The Sheriff appoints deputies to assist him in the performance of his duties. The Sheriff is also invested with the power of "Posse Comitatus" (the power of the county), which he may call upon the entire population of the county above the age of 15 to assist him in certain cases, to aid in peacemaking, and pursuing and arresting felons.

The Office of Sheriff Today

Today the Sheriff is the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the County, and he falls under the title of "Police" in the Pennsylvania Crimes Code.

The Sheriff’s Office is a professional law enforcement agency. Deputy Sheriffs engage in many activities throughout the day; from serving civil process, investigating, and arresting wanted subjects, arranging the transport of, and transporting, prisoners, to assisting the public and local police.

Deputies assigned to the courthouse are responsible for providing security within the courts, escorting prisoners, placing defendants into custody, if court ordered, and operating the holding cells. The Sheriff will also provide extradition of fugitives across the United States. The Sheriff and his deputies are empowered to arrest with or without a warrant for any breach of peace or crime within the commonwealth and have full law enforcement power as investigating officers of the county.

The Bucks County Sheriff's Office provides Law Enforcement service to the citizens of Bucks County and operates 24-hour service to assure the quality of public safety.