Differences Between Law Enforcement Jobs

The main difference between a deputy sheriff and a police officer is jurisdiction. A police officer is solely responsible for the prevention of crime within their city limits, whereas a deputy sheriff is responsible for an entire county, which could include multiple small towns and several larger cities. Job responsibilities are also different for a deputy and a police officer. Police officers mainly patrol the city, issue tickets, and testify against criminals they arrest. The duties for deputy sheriffs vary by state but may include maintaining county jails, acting as security in courts, investigating crimes or accidents, and issuing warrants. Qualifications and training also differ, with additional training needed to become a deputy.

The main difference between a deputy sheriff and a police officer is jurisdiction. A police officer is solely responsible for the prevention of crime within their city limits, whereas a deputy sheriff is responsible for an entire county, which could include multiple small towns and several larger cities.

Sheriff and Police Sergeant Threaten to Arrest Each Other

Differences between law enforcement branches

The various branches of law enforcement offer different opportunities and come with different responsibilities and tasks. Four of the main roles include working as a sheriff, police officer, marshal and ranger.

A sheriff is a law enforcement officer who holds jurisdiction over a county rather than a city or state. Sheriffs are usually elected by the communities they serve, and their duties ultimately depend on the county they oversee. Sheriffs are also responsible for managing local jails. They oversee the staff members responsible for the inmates and ensure that all legal processes are followed properly regarding those who are incarcerated within the county.

A police officer is a member of a citys law enforcement agency who is sworn in to protect and defend the members of the community. Police officers can detain and arrest people who are breaking laws, monitor drivers to ensure they are following all traffic regulations, patrol areas with high crime rates and respond to emergency situations.

A marshal is a court officer, enforcing the procedures and regulations in courtrooms. Marshals may also serve arrest warrants and subpoenas and provide court security and transport of inmates and witnesses. A federal-level marshal also assists with the witness protection program.

Rangers in law enforcement only work in Texas and have an extensive history in the state. They are at the top of the police forces throughout Texas and oversee the other officers who serve the various communities.

Although these four roles share many similar duties and responsibilities, the key difference is their jurisdiction. A police officer holds jurisdiction over a city or specific area of a region, while a sheriff is responsible for an entire county. A Texas Ranger works as a top police officer in the state, while a marshal enforces the laws of the courts.

Police officers also handle more of the tasks associated with enforcing the laws, including apprehending and arresting suspects, patrolling areas and monitoring individuals who may break laws. Sheriffs spend more time in the office, handling required paperwork and overseeing the inmates who have already been arrested within the county.

Sheriffs are also elected officials, while police officers do not have to be elected by the members of the community to work in this role. In all states except Alaska, the sheriff is seen as the chief executive officer of the county sheriffs department, operating under the countys government. Alaska does not have counties, which is why it does not have any sheriffs.

Why work in law enforcement?

Working in law enforcement allows you to provide service to your community while enforcing justice and making sure people follow the local and federal laws. A career in this field gives you the chance to commit to justice and service to the greater good. Members of communities across the globe rely on law enforcement officers to fight crime, protect them and maintain laws.

Although a job in law enforcement can be stressful, it also affords opportunities that other jobs cannot provide. Many roles within the industry of law enforcement touch the lives of many people daily.


To work in law enforcement, you must be a U.S. citizen and hold a high school diploma. After completing high school, the next step is taking the entrance exam to enter the police academy. In the police academy, students receive extensive training in topics that include traffic laws, search and seizure, driving a vehicle, handling firearms and criminal statutes. This academy also involves heavy physical conditioning. Upon completion of the police academy, you can begin looking for jobs in the area where you wish to work.


All law enforcement agents who carry weapons for protection must hold a license to do so. The licensing process varies by state and depends on what type of weapon you carry. Some officers also become licensed to perform CPR and first aid, although this is not part of the police academy training process.


Some law enforcement agents focus on specific crimes or activities, such as narcotics or special weapons and tactics (SWAT). Police officers can also work with canine officers, providing training to police dogs who assist with a variety of unique tasks.

Top jobs in law enforcement

Some top jobs in law enforcement allow you to apply your skills and protect the community you serve.

Primary duties: Correctional officers oversee individuals who have been arrested and have been sentenced to serve time in prison or jail, are on probation or are awaiting trial. Their duties include supervising inmate activities, searching inmates for contraband items, providing counseling and rehabilitation to criminals, inspecting jail and prison facilities and providing reports on the conduct of those they are assigned to oversee.

Primary duties: Detectives, also called criminal investigators, work with police officers to solve crimes through the investigation of criminal cases. They gather and examine evidence, interview and observe suspects and witnesses, testify in court and maintain thorough records of their activities.

Primary duties: Police officers enforce laws to protect life and maintain order within the jurisdiction in which they serve. The goal of a police officer is to preserve the peace, which they do by apprehending and arresting those suspected of breaking laws, investigating criminal activity, responding to emergency calls, stopping traffic law violators and performing all patrol duties as needed.

Primary duties: Border patrol officers work for an arm of the Department of Homeland Security to monitor and protect the borders of the United States to ensure that illegal substances and individuals who are not authorized do not enter the country. The most common job duties include seizing and inspecting shipments, screening individuals who are coming in and out of the U.S., performing surveillance of borders and prevent illegal weapons and other items from entering the country.

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