How to Become a Sheriff in California?

In the state of California, Sheriffs are elected officials, who are in-charge of law enforcement activities in their respective counties. The Sheriff Department of each county is responsible for the unincorporated areas that do not fall in the jurisdiction of a police department of an incorporated municipality. Sheriffs and their deputy sheriffs are to counties what police officers are to cities.

The State of California has 58 Sheriffs. If you are interested in knowing what they do, let’s take a look at the duties performed by Sheriffs in California.

How to Become a Sheriff in California
How to Become a Sheriff in California

Sheriff’s Duties in California

The sheriff of a county has a role similar to that of a police chief in a municipal department. Sheriff’s deputies serving under the sheriff have a role similar to that of uniformed police officers. The basic duties of Sheriffs in California would include:

  • Investigating complaints
  • Responding in emergencies
  • Patrolling
  • Dispute resolution
  • Criminal investigations
  • Executing warrants
  • Arresting suspects

In addition to these duties, sheriffs also make sure that the county they are responsible for is being run smoothly. Any administrative or HR concerns are also taken care of by the sheriff.

Requirements to Become a Sheriff in California

In general terms, the following requirements to become a sheriff might be taken as basic guidelines for those who intend to set off on this path in any of the state’s counties.

  • Candidates must be US Citizens – if you are in the process of getting your citizenship, you will have to wait until you actually have it to begin the process
  • Candidates should be more than 18 years of age – this age limit may vary from county to county but in most cases, you will be required to be more than 18 years old
  • The Sheriff of a county is typically a resident of that county too – Some counties might require you to have residency of the area you want to serve. If you have just moved there, you might even be required to stay for a year before becoming eligible to apply
  • Candidates need to have a high school diploma or a GED
  • Candidates ought to be in a good physical and mental shape to be able to deal with the stressful nature of the job.

Steps to Become a Sheriff in California

As each county has its own set of rules for individuals aspiring to become sheriffs, therefore there is no one way of becoming a sheriff in California.  Laws and rules relating to how to become a sheriff are typically outlined on the official website for the relevant county.

The process to become a sheriff varies from county to county, but on a general level, the following steps might be followed:

Step 1: Get Field Experience

In some counties, sheriff training programs may be in place, which would allow you to join directly. But in case there isn’t a training program available at the county you are interested in, you would have to graduate from a police academy. Here, you will learn all the integral skills required on the job, including subjects such as use of firearms, crowd control, high speed driving, constitutional law and many others.

Once you have graduated from a police academy, you would have to become a law enforcement officer to gain experience. Different counties have different requirements when it comes to the work experience required – some might require five years of relevant experience, while others might do with just one.

Other kinds of law enforcement work, such as working as a judge, can be substituted for police work in some counties. If your county requires you to get a license of certification, you would have to do that as well.

Step 2: Consider a Law Enforcement Degree

While this is not a requirement at the county level, it might be helpful to get an associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. You would be heading an entire department in your county, therefore higher education subjects such as psychology, criminology and public speaking might be of great help.

Step 3: Run for the Office of Sheriff in California

Every county has slightly different requirements in this regard, so you are advised to do your research thoroughly. Here are a few common requirements that you may be needed to fulfill to run for sheriff’s office:

  • Pass a written exam
  • Clear an interview
  • Pass a background check
  • Pass a physical fitness exam
Step 4: File Paperwork in the Relevant County

Make sure you are aware of the deadline for application in your county for filing the paperwork. You will have to go to your county courthouse and follow the procedure for filling.

Step 5: Begin Your Campaign for Sheriff

At this point, you will need to spread the word that you are running for sheriff. Plan out the campaign well in advance since competition is likely to be tough and you would need to make a highly organized effort.

If your campaign is successful, you will be elected as your county’s sheriff. Following this, you will take an oath of loyalty and sign your contract. Once you become the sheriff, your term will most likely last four years.

How Much Does a Sheriff Make in California?

O*NET OnLine lists Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers together in a single category and provides the data for the whole category. The median salary for this category in California was $101,470, which is significantly higher than the $61,050 national median. The occupation is also expected to experience a positive growth of 5% in the years between 2016 and 2026, going from 69,700 jobs in 2016 to 73,200 jobs in 2026.

County level salary data will vary according to each county’s budget, number of employees and extensiveness of operations.