Some counties have Sheriff’s Offices. Some cities have Police Departments. Arlington has both, and for newcomers to Arlington, the differences between the two can be confusing. While both have the ability to enforce laws, and Sheriff’s Deputies can act as secondary law enforcement, the two branches of Arlington’s law enforcement have distinct roles.
The Arlington Police Department carries out the criminal processes of Arlington’s law enforcement. Arlington Police run patrols, investigates crimes, and make arrests. Once the accused is taken to the jail, then it becomes a job for the Sheriff’s Office.
According to Major Bruce Black from the Arlington Sheriff’s Office, the role of Arlington’s Sheriff’s Office is to oversee the jail and courthouse and to enforce civil processes, like serving eviction notices or protective orders.
In recent years, Black says the mission of the Sheriff’s Office has undergone some changes.
Black said there’s a common misconception that after someone is convicted, they are locked up and the key gets thrown away. Black calls this the “Mayberry Syndrome.” But he says those days are over, and studies into high recidivism rates have forced Sheriff’s Offices to recognize their responsibility to enact programs to help reform inmates. In Arlington, Black says this has manifested into programs like a kitchen school where inmates can finish their sentence with a certificate that will allow them to work in restaurants.
Another difference between the two organizations is that the Chief of Police is appointed by the County Board while the Sheriff is an elected, constitutional office.