Step by Step Guide to Become a Sheriff in Florida

A sheriff is a law enforcement officer who is either elected or appointed to take charge of the security concerns of an entire county. The duties of a sheriff are very similar to that of a police officer – they work towards providing safety to the citizens residing in their jurisdiction, respond to emergency calls and maintain peace. Sheriffs are also required to work in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies in the area to provide the best service.

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In Florida, there are 67 sheriffs, all a part of the prestigious Florida Sheriffs Association. The Association, which has been around since 1893 has been the voice of Florida’s sheriffs ensuring that the Office of Sheriff is effective through education, training, leadership, legislative initiatives and innovative practices. Thanks to the efforts of these law enforcement professionals, Florida’s crime rate is at a 47 year low.
If you want to be a part of this Association as one of the sheriffs, the following guide would be of great use to you. It details the minimum requirements, the steps to become a sheriff and the salary expectations.
Note: Keep in mind that the following information is largely general, and is subject to variation from county to county. You are advised to check the exact requirements of your local county before beginning the application process.

How to Become a Sheriff in Florida
How to Become a Sheriff in Florida

Minimum Requirements to Become a Sheriff in Florida

To be eligible to hold the office of Sheriff in Florida, you need to meet the basic criteria. If you clear the following, you are good to go:

  • All candidates must be US citizens
  • All candidates must be at least 18 years old
  • Candidates must have a residency status in the county they are applying for
  • Candidates need to be in a good physical and mental shape
  • All candidates are required to have at least a high school diploma or GED

Steps to Become a Sheriff in Florida

If you meet the basic criteria for eligibility, you may begin the application process for becoming a sheriff. The process is long and detailed, so you are advised to apply well in time.

Step 1: Gain some field experience:

You will need to complete a police academy and get some law enforcement experience, as per the requirements of your county. Some counties might have their own training programs for aspiring sheriffs, while other would require you to have completed a police training academy course. The training is meant to teach you the basics of law enforcement for a particular area. These would include the likes of:

  • Use of firearms
  • Crime scene management
  • Arrest process
  • High speed driving
  • Crowd control techniques
  • Constitutional law
  • Witness questioning

Once you have completed your training, you will need to get some relevant law enforcement experience. The number of years of work required would also vary from county to county, though it is typically somewhere between one year and five years. You may also need to get a police officer license or certification. Working as a judge may also qualify as valid work experience.

Step 2: Consider higher education:

Getting a higher education is not mandatory in most counties. However, if you have an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree in a law enforcement related field, it will certainly help set you apart from the competition. In addition to that, a higher qualification might increase the confidence of the voters in you as they would feel you are more suitable for the role. You might want to take classes in criminology, psychology, communication skills and public speaking skills.

Step 3: Meet your county’s requirements for the sheriff’s application:

Most counties have their own set of requirements that you need to meet to be eligible. Here are a few common ones that you might need to fulfill:

  • Clear a written exam
  • Pass an extensive interview
  • Clear a thorough background check
  • Pass a physical fitness exam
Step 4: Submit your application:

Once you have cleared all the requirements, you would need to officially submit your application. Visit your local courthouse or your county’s website for more details regarding the submission process.

Step 5: Prepare your campaign:

This is one of the most important steps towards becoming a sheriff. You are advised to spend some time, money and effort here to get your message across to the masses. Ideally, you should put together a whole team that helps you with the campaigning activities, such as setting up media interviews, passing around fliers and increasing awareness about your goals and ambitions for the county. Campaigning is no easy job, so you have got to pull out all the stops to win.

Step 6: Get elected and assume office:

If your campaigning is fruitful and you receive the majority of the votes on election day, you will be asked to assume office soon. Your official four-year term would begin after taking an oath and signing a contract. Most counties have a four-year long term, after which you may try for a re-election.

How much does a sheriff earn in Florida?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers made an annual mean wage of $58,400 in Florida, which is lower than the national mean of $64,490. However, the prospects for law enforcement related occupations are highly positive in the state.

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