what is the difference between police, sheriff and State Troopers?


I’m fairly new to living in the US and I see all three on the roads here. In the U.K. we only had police.

In: 24

Police are just public sector employees.

Sherrifs are elected.

I know State Troopers have jurisdiction over entire states but I have no idea where they come from, who chooses them, and why their hats are somehow both ridiculous and intimidating.

Different zones of authority. Local police usually the city, they are the people in charge, outside city limits its either county or state who are in charge counties usually have a Sherriff for that area who is the head of that area, state covers anything not covered by the below. Feds only cover federal offences or things that affect cross state lines, hence crossing state lines is a big deal.

Big diff between uk and us, in uk laws in one county can be enforced in others by the police, in county vs state vs federal some laws do not apply at the other level, so like weed isn’t processed in California but could be as a federal crime, the state or local cops ain’t doing shit.

Police are town or city based, so they only have authority in their town/city. Obviously since police are expensive not every little town has its own police, which takes us to the next thing.

Sheriffs. Sheriffs are at the county level. They are essentially the police force for the whole county and work across the county and all the towns in it. But they typically won’t spend much time in the cities or towns that have their own police forces because those places already have their own police, so you will more often see Sheriffs in more rural areas. But that does not mean they can’t come in the town/city.

Another thing about the sheriffs, the head of the sheriff’s department is an elected official. You vote for sheriff.

Then, the next step above that is State Troopers.

These are what you would think, state police, they have authority to work across the entire state.

Because of this, they will work most often on the interstates/large or busy highways between the cities, sometimes in the small rural towns, and will work on cases and coordinate with local police for things that span multiple towns/cities/counties.

Police generally refers to the City or township law enforcement officers. The Sheriff is an elected official who heads the law enforcement for the County. The Sheriff has deputies. The State Troopers are law enforcement for the State and generally enforce law on the interstate and prisons. Each of these organizations are independent of one another both administratively and jurisdictionally. Most of the time these organizations will cooperate with each other within their own jurisdictions but not always.

Police are municipal law enforcement. Sheriffs are county law enforcement and/or responsible for running jails and courthouse security. Troopers are state police, who handle highway patrol and crimes that have broad jurisdiction.

Police are limited to a City.

Sheriffs are limited to a County but can go to any City in that county they wish.

State Police like the Highway Patrol cover the entire state and all unincorporated land.

It goes by jurisdiction size.

Police are at the municipality level (towns and cities) and will typically handle anything that stays within their municipality.

The Sheriff’s department is at the county level. The head of the department, the Sheriff, is elected. The officers working for the department are Sheriff’s deputies. They handle anything covering multiple towns in their county, and act as the primary law enforcement for any town too small to have its own police force.

State troopers cover the entire state. Normally you’ll only see them on freeways, as people on them can quickly move between counties, and local law enforcement can typically handle everything else.

Then of course there’s one more level, federal. The FBI deals with federal crimes and crimes committed across multiple states.

You’re getting a lot of different, conflicting, and somewhat-erroneous answers, here. 🙂

I’ll try to keep it simple. All of those people are “law-enforcement officers,” but who they work for and what their job duties are can vary greatly, because each of the 50 United States has different laws.

In general, “police” are probably similar to the police in the UK. One big difference is that there are usually local police (either for a big city like New York, or a small town of 200 people). Those local police often lack police authority outside of their jurisdiction. For example, if a New York City police officer goes on vacation to California, he can’t issue you a ticket for littering in California, even if he watches you littering, because he is not a law-enforcement officer in California. (He can, however, still call the local police and report it, just like any other citizen.)

“State Troopers” or “State Police” (the proper term can vary, from state to state) are also police officers, but they have the same police authority throughout a single entire state. They generally leave the smaller crimes to the local police, but state police get involved in bigger, statewide investigations like serial killers or people dealing drugs in multiple towns. State police also often enforce laws on major highways, because those roads run quickly from one town to another.

“Sheriffs” are often elected officials, not hired/appointed officials. They are law-enforcement officers who usually operate at a county level, within a particular state. In some cases, they act just like the police (particularly in some rural areas, where small towns may not have their own police forces). However, they also often serve other jobs for the county courts, doing things like serving arrest warrants, hunting down criminal fugitives, and transporting prisoners to and from the county jails and the courts. The actual duties of a county sheriff can vary greatly, from one area to another.

The difference is jurisdiction. You have this in the UK too; there isn’t just one police force policing the whole country, you have [territorial police forces](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_law_enforcement_agencies_in_the_United_Kingdom,_Crown_dependencies_and_British_Overseas_Territories#Territorial_police_forces), e.g. the Metropolitan Police have jurisdiction in London, and the Manchester Police have jurisdiction in Manchester.

The US is the same, except way larger and with a lot more jurisdictions, plus sub-jurisdictions inside those jurisdictions.

In general, cities have police departments, counties have sheriff’s offices, and states have the state troopers (sometimes called the highway patrol). There are also federal law-enforcement agencies, like the FBI, although they aren’t typically involved in ordinary policing; their opposite number in the UK would be the National Crime Agency.

Where one department’s jurisdiction ends and another begins can be very complicated and depends on the states and cities involved. A stated, cities normally have their own police departments but in some cities, especially small ones, most policing might get outsourced to the county authorities. State troopers normally have jurisdiction on the highways, which is why in some states they’re called the Highway Patrol but they also get involved in major investigations.

What about marshals? Federal?