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500 Main Street, 3rd Floor
P.O. Box 701
Jetmore, Kansas 67854
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History of the Sheriff

The Office of Sheriff is one of antiquity.  In the 9th Century, Alfred the Great was able to consolidate Anglo-Saxon England as a unified kingdom. Under Anglo-Saxon rule it was the duty of the citizens themselves to see that the law was not broken, and if it was, it was their duty to catch the offender.  All males in the community between the ages of 12 and 60 were responsible for this duty.  

The families were eventually organized into groups of ten, called a tything.  At their head was a "tythingman".  Each member of the tything was responsible for the good behavior of all their members.  Ten tythings were lead by a chief called the "reeve".  Under Alfred the Great, tythings were combined to form geographic units called "shires" (counties).  Each shire was then lead by the chief called a "reeve".

In 1116 AD, King Henry I established a new penal code.  While the Crown reserved the right to punish violations of the penal code, it delegated to the shire reeve (keeper and chief of the county) the power to arrest and investigate crimes against the Crown.  He was ultimately responsible for interpreting the law and maintaining order within his county. Every man was expected to share the obligation of keeping the peace and assisting the Shire reeve.  The Sheriff could raise the "hue and cry" and any citizen who heard the call was obligated to assist the Sheriff. This call to service is know as posse commitatus or "the power of the county" and it still exists today as the Sheriff may still call a posse and appoint special deputies as needed to assist in the maintenance of law and order.

"Shire reeve"eventually evolved to Sheriff and with the single exception of kingship, no secular office known to the English speaking peoples is older.

The Office of Sheriff was the first county office established in the Americas and records show the first Sheriff was selected in the Colony of Virginia in 1634. Thomas Jefferson wrote of the importance of the Sheriff in his treatise, The Value of Constitutions; "The office of the Sheriff is the most important of all the executive offices of the county... there is no honorable law enforcement authority in the Anglo-American law so ancient as that of the county sheriff whose role as peace officer goes back at least to the time of Alfred the Great."

The Sheriff is a constitutional officer and offers the people in his jurisdiction the most effective liaison to law enforcement. When citizens have a complaint concerning an issue in their county the Sheriff is ultimately their best remedy.  Although modern times have placed more glamorous attention on police departments and state law enforcement agencies, in reality they create a myriad of problems.  The Sheriff can respond faster to a citizen's complaint than any police department, as his fast and efficient abilities for handling these concerns are derived directly from his constitutional foundation, while other types of agencies continue to struggle with their bureaucratic red tape. Independence and self-governance is critically important to this office, as it lends itself to an autonomous nature greater than all other appointed law enforcement officials.  The Sheriff answers directly to the people, rather than to other government officials. As an elected official the Sheriff can be a social force in the community and can represent the public's will on issues of community importance.  "One voice one vote" provides for individual participation in the selection of the Sheriff and the Sheriff can point to the fact that if the public isn't satisfied with the job he is doing that he can be voted out of office.

Throughout American history many colorful individuals have held the office, to include George Washington's father, Augustine, (Sheriff of Westmoreland County in Colonial Virginia), "Wild Bill" Hickok, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Pat Garrett and Bill Tilghman. President Theodore Roosevelt served as a Deputy Sheriff in the Dakota Territories and President Grover Cleveland is the only President known to have personally hanged a man...while serving as the Sheriff of Erie County New York!

The Hodgeman County Sheriff's Office dates back to 1879 with the appointment of the first Sheriff, George M. Curtis, to be the chief law enforcement of the newly organized county. The current Sheriff, Ron Ridley, was first appointed by Governor Kathleen Sebelius in June 2006 and was then elected as Sheriff in November 2008 and re-elected in November 2012.  He is the 31st individual to hold the office in its 134 year history, and will serve until January 2017.




   Hodgeman County Sheriff's Office | © 2015
   Hodgeman County, Kansas