The history and functions of a Sheriff can reportedly be traced to provisions of the Magna Carta in England, in the year 1215.
The office of Sheriff was the first county office established in the United States.
The Sheriffs of America have played a significant role in the history of our Nation, and the Sheriffs of Ohio are no exception to this heritage. A brief study of the history of Ohio reveals that Ohio Sheriffs have contributed greatly to the development of the Buckeye State.
Until Ohio achieved statehood in 1803, the position of Sheriff was filled through appointments made at the pleasure of the Colonial Governor. The first Sheriff of record in Ohio was Colonel Ebenezer Sproat. When appointed in 1788, Colonel Sproat’s jurisdiction covered all of Washington County. This enormous area of land included all of eastern Ohio from the Ohio River to Lake Erie.
After statehood became a reality, the position of Sheriff was one of only three public offices filled through the electoral process system. Through this new system, William Skinner became the first elected Sheriff in the Buckeye State. Since the early 1800’s, Ohio Sheriffs have been elected on the county level by the people they serve. By virtue of this process this office has become the oldest law enforcement position in the United States. It is also the only remaining law enforcement office filled through the election method. The term of office for County Sheriffs in Ohio is four years.
In each of the 88 counties of Ohio, the Sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer. The Sheriffs primary duties are to provide common pleas court services and corrections on a countywide basis, and full police protection to the unincorporated areas of the county. However, the Sheriff maintains full police jurisdiction in all municipalities, townships, and villages.