The office of the Sheriff is the oldest law enforcement office known within the common-law system and it has always been accorded great dignity and high trust. For the most part, the Office of Sheriff evolved out of necessity. Were it not for laws which require enforcing there would have been no necessity for the Sheriff. Throughout history there have been those who covet the property of others and who are willing to take the property by any means. Society wanted order and the Office of Sheriff was created. The County Sheriff is a peace officer entrusted with the maintenance of law and order and the preservation of domestic tranquility.
Sheriff’s have served and protected the English-speaking people for a thousand years. The creation of the Sheriff dates back to the reign of Alfred the Great of England. Alfred divided England into shires, or counties.
English kings over the centuries appointed representatives who were called “reeve” to be their representatives in each of the shires. Over time and the changing of the English language the shire reeve became Sheriff. The Sheriff was and still is the chief law enforcement officer in each shire, or county.
The Sheriff is the only viable officer remaining of ancient history. Although times have changes from the crossbow to computers and digital technology, Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Value of Constitutions, “The Office of Sheriff is the most important of all the executive offices of the county.”
The Office of the Sheriff has played a significant role in the history of our Nation, and the Sheriff’s of North Dakota are no exception. Nationally, the Office of the Sheriff is the oldest law enforcement position, and the only one by virtue of a vote of citizens.