Deputy Sheriff vs Police Officer – Differences and Similarities

Typically, a deputy sheriff and police officer are law enforcement professionals with similar skills and responsibilities. However, jurisdiction makes a significant difference between the two.

A police officer’s sole job is to protect a community or city from all sorts of crimes. On the other hand, a deputy sheriff is in charge of an entire county, which could include small towns and larger cities.

Deputy sheriffs also have different jobs depending on the state. But they may run county jails, ensure courts are safe, look into crimes or accidents, or give out warrants.

Some other differences include qualifications, training, and so on. This article explores what deputy sheriffs and police officers do and some of the differences between them.

Read on to learn more.

What is a police officer?

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A police officer is a person who works for the government and whose primary job is to protect lives and property, keep communities safe and orderly, and look into crimes.

Police officers also fine minor offenders such as overspeeding and give evidence in court against law offenders.

In addition, they can sometimes medically help car accident victims before the arrival of paramedics.

Finally, they are given ranks based on their skills and how long they have been on the job.

What is a deputy sheriff?

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A deputy sheriff is a police officer whose jurisdiction extends throughout an entire county, not just one city or state. The county sheriff, who controls the agency and manages its deputy workforce, is often elected.

Some of the roles of a deputy sheriff are similar to that of police officers, like conducting arrests, responding to 911, etc. However, they can also be assigned to patrol a specific county area, work as a jail operator, or provide evidence in the county court.

In regions where they cannot fund a local police officer, deputy sheriffs can serve as the sole law enforcement alternative.

What are the differences between a deputy sheriff and a police officer?

While there are many similarities between a deputy sheriff and a police officer, they differ in jurisdiction, training, salary, etc. Here is the detail of the differences between the two:

1. Jurisdiction

The main distinction between a police officer and a deputy sheriff is the geographical region in which they are authorized to operate.

Typically, a deputy sheriff has authority over an entire county, including multiple small villages and cities. They can also conduct investigations and assist local law enforcement, but they rarely leave the state where they operate.

However, police officers usually have jurisdiction within their city but may extend to the nearby territories of a town, as well as specific routes and sections of their county.

Generally, most cities have more police personnel than a county. And sheriff can purposely distribute their deputies around their jurisdiction to cover a broader region, while police officers within city limits sometimes work in groups or pairs.

However, deputy sheriffs and police officers can collaborate on cases involving criminal behavior within both departments’ jurisdictions and require interdepartmental collaboration to settle.

2. Training

Another difference between a deputy sheriff and a police officer is their specialized training, which could last up to six months, depending on the selected program.

Police officers often undergo training on weapons and police policy, which can vary across cities, states, and territories. For instance, police officers train in riot dispersal and crowd control because an urban environment is prone to having large crowds.

On the other hand, deputy sheriffs may not need this training because their county may never encounter these crowds.

Although police officers and deputy sheriffs can receive the same training, state regulations may vary.

3. Job responsibilities

Even though deputy sheriffs and police officers have similar responsibilities, there are a few differences between them. The differences are:

  1. Although both deputy sheriffs and police officers patrol their territories to deter criminal activity and monitor the public, police officers primarily watch city streets, while deputy sheriffs highways or county routes within city borders.
  2. While deputy sheriffs and police officers investigate crimes, the nature and their jurisdictions might affect the extent of involvement for each profession, depending on the committed crime.
  3. Typically, deputy sheriffs patrol highways and county roads for traffic offenses, while police officers patrol city roads and streets within city borders.

4. Salary

Another critical distinction between a deputy sheriff and a police officer is their respective annual wages.

The average annual income for police officers is $55,502 per annum, while the annual average wage for deputy sheriffs is approximately $50,449.

However, depending on the level of education and the state in which they work, a higher income may be possible for both roles. There are also frequent promotion opportunities for both professionals.

Deputy sheriff vs. police officer: similarities

  • Typically, an undergraduate degree in law enforcement is required of deputy sheriffs and police officers. However, this might vary depending on the agency.
  • They both enforce the law while maintaining mutual respect for their respective authorities.
  • They often cooperate across departments to investigate and solve high-profile crimes.


What makes an outstanding police officer?

An outstanding police officer must be reliable, hardworking, avoid legal trouble, and desire to serve others and keep their town safe.

What are the skills needed to be a deputy sheriff?

A deputy sheriff needs problem-solving, critical reasoning, and good communication skills, and must learn to be calm under high pressure.

What are other positions similar to a police officer?

Similar positions to police officers include officer of the army, forensics, and homicide detectives.

What is the difference between a police officer and a detective?

A detective is responsible for investigating a specific case, whereas police officers are primarily concerned with patrolling areas and preventing crimes.

What skills do you need to be a police officer?

A police officer should have the following skills: attention to detail, critical thinking, composure under pressure, responsibility, assertiveness, outstanding communication skills, decision-making skills, etc.

Conclusion: deputy sheriff vs. police officer

Police officers and deputy sheriffs share similar responsibilities. However, police officers are more likely to stay within the confines of a city and patrol the town to prevent or stop crimes.

On the other hand, deputy sheriffs are law enforcement officers who work for a town or city’s police department.

Although deputy sheriffs sometimes serve in less populated locations, which might provide unique difficulties, such as large swaths of terrain that need to be patrolled.

The risks of injury or death in both jobs are somewhat similar. Hence, their extensive training ensures they are fit enough for the job.

I hope you found this article helpful. You can also read whether being a police officer is worth it.

Thanks for reading.