The office of the sheriff is one of antiquity. It 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 The Sheriff evolved of necessity. If there had not been laws
that had required enforcing, there would have been no necessity for the Sheriff.
There would have been no need for the development of police administration,
criminology, criminalizes, etc. This is not the case, however. Man
learned quite early that is not orderly in the universe. All times and all
places have generated those who covet the property of their neighbors and who
are willing to expropriate this property by any means. As such man’s
quest for equity and order gave birth to the "Office of the Sheriff", the history
of which begins in the Old Testament and continues through the annuals of
Judeo-Christian tradition. Indeed, there is no honorable law enforcement
authority in Anglo-American law so ancient as that of the County Sheriff. Today,
as in the past, the County Sheriff is a peace officer entrusted with the
maintenance of law and order and the preservation of domestic tranquility.
Sheriffs have served and protected the English-speaking
people for a thousand years. The Office of Sheriff and the law
enforcement, judicial and correctional functions he performs are more than 1000
years old. The Office of Sheriff dates back at least to the reign of
Alfred the Great of England, and some scholars even argue that the Office of
Sheriff was first created during the Roman occupation of England.
Around 500 Ad, Germanic tribes from Europe (called the
Anglo-Saxons) began an invasion of Celtic England, which eventually led over the
centuries to the consolidation of Anglo-Saxon England as a unified kingdom under
Alfred the Great late in the 9th Century. Alfred divided England into
geographic units called “shires”, or counties.
In 1066, William the Conquer defeated the Anglo-Saxons and
instituted his own Norman government in England. Both under the
Anglo-Saxons and under the Normans, the King of England appointed a
representative called a “reeve” to act on behalf of the king in each shire
or county. The “shire-reeve”, or King’s representative in each
county became the “Sheriff” as the English language changed over the years.
The shire-reeve, or Sheriff, was the chief law enforcement officer of each
county in the year 1000 AD. He still will have the same function in South
Carolina in the year 2000 AD.
The concepts of “county” and “Sheriff” were
essentially the same as they had been during the previous 900 years of English
legal history. Because of the English heritage of the American colonies,
the new United States adopted the English law and legal institutions as its
Clearly, the Sheriff is the only viable officer remaining of
the ancient offices, and his contemporary responsibility as conservator of the
peace has been influenced greatly by modern society. As the crossbow gave
way to the primitive flintlock the Sheriff is not unaccustomed to change.
But now, perhaps more than ever before in history, law enforcement is faced with
complex, moving, rapid changes in methodology, technology, and social attitudes.
For a complete list of
Sheriffs who have served in Laurens County, Click