In most parts of the United States, the sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer of a county or parish.In some states, such as Connecticut, the office of the Sheriff has been abolished altogether. In others, such as Delaware, the Sheriff is responsible for court-ordered civil paper service and has no law enforcement authority. This, however, is currently in debate within that state on the basis of Common Law authority granted to the Sheriff. In two states, Hawaii and Rhode Island, the sheriff has state-wide authority. In Hawaii, the sheriff is the functional equivalent of a state police.
In many jurisdictions, the Sheriff is directly elected by the voters rather than being appointed by an executive.
The Sheriff's Office is derived from English common law. The word is derived from the Old English term "shire-reeve." A shire is an Old English form of a county and the "reeve" was its appointed administrative/legal officer. Practices have gradually diverged in the various countries that have sheriffs. In the year 1215, the position of Sheriff was made permanent into English law by the signing of the Magna Carta. The term Sheriff is used throughout much of the English-speaking world. In the US a sheriff is a chief of police, whereas in England he is an officer responsible for enforcing court orders. In Scotland, on the other hand, he is a special judge in a court of law.