Can a sheriff determine who gets to become a "certified" law enforcement officer?
July 3, 2010 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Can a sheriff determine which of his employees are eligible for certification/to become a certified law enforcement officer?

I realize that local/state standards will vary, but as a general matter I'm curious whether a county sheriff has the power to either

(a) set the job descriptions of his employees in such a way as to determine whether or not they are eligible for law enforcement officer certification or

(b) make individual determinations about which of his employees can and cannot "go up" to become certified law enforcement officers?

And if the sheriff does not have the power to set job descriptions or determine the eligibility of specific individuals in this way, who does? Thanks, all!
posted by ninotchka to Law & Government (4 answers total)
This might help you understand the process in California
posted by buggzzee23 at 10:19 AM on July 3, 2010

The short answer is "no."

Sheriffs' direct election in most states gives them more autonomy than Chiefs of Police, but not the autonomy to move a job from civilian to sworn. State law and regs closely govern how someone gets a sworn job (civil service test, academy training, etc.) and Sheriffs can't override them. Moreover, Sheriffs depend upon county and state budget appropriations and sworn personnel are so much more expensive than civilian (higher wages, far higher retirement benefit costs) that it would be rare a Sheriff would have the budgetary flexibility to move many jobs across that line even if he had the administrative power.

A Sheriff who wants more sworn personnel than he is budgeted asks the county government (commission, Board of Supervisors, etc.) or state legislature to give him money for the position in the next year's budget. If there is a job category that he thinks can be better fulfilled by a sworn officer than by a civilian, he probably would have to pursue changes to state or county regs or statutes (with the budget being a factor again, too). This latter is very hard to do because of the expense of sworn personnel -- the overwhelming trend in law enforcement is to increase the number of roles that are carried out by civilians, not decrease them.

Even with all of that, once he has the sworn seat in hand, in most states the Sheriff would lack the power to transfer a civilian into the sworn role. A civilian would have to pass the academy test with a high enough score, go to the academy, etc. (In many cases, certain classes of uniformed civilian employees, like traffic safety or public office security guards, can get a preference in that process, but once again the preference is going to be statutory or regulatory and not overridden by a Sheriff himself.)
posted by MattD at 11:33 AM on July 3, 2010

This helps a great deal, thanks so much! So in situations where a Sheriff wants to do the opposite - to, for lack of a better word, move a job from sworn to civilian - can a Sheriff do so?
posted by ninotchka at 1:18 PM on July 3, 2010

Ninotchka: many of the same problems: separate payroll allocations, separate civil service rules, but, in principal, doable with less need to get regs or budgets altered. However, these kind of moves are often fought against by the officer's or uniformed supervisor's unions -- they like to maintain staffing levels high, and (for any number of reasons) they like having finance, PR, planning and personnel assignments open to their membership. ("Desk jobs" are always punishment in cop movies, but not always viewed that way in reality.)
posted by MattD at 2:39 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

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