November 23, 2017
Politics & Opinion
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Why Is There A Sheriff’s Office?

Ron Bateman
Ron Bateman's picture
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September 6, 2017

To answer that question, I need to start with our heritage. The Sheriff’s Office is the oldest office outside of the king and queen, starting first in St. Mary’s County in 1649 and then in Anne Arundel County in 1650. To put that in perspective, the Anne Arundel County Police Department didn’t begin until 1935, some 285 years after the Sheriff’s Office was established.

The Sheriff’s Office can be traced back to the mid-1600s. The first sheriff, John Norwood, came to Maryland from Virginia in 1649 and settled near the Severn River in a town known as Annapolis. Edward Lloyd, appointed by Lord Baltimore to be the commander of Anne Arundel County, had the authority to appoint the sheriff as well as other offices in the county. Although state law called for the annual selection of the sheriff, John Norwood was reappointed several times and served from 1650 to 1662.

As a court official, Sheriff Norwood was responsible for many tasks. He impaneled juries and was responsible for carrying out judgments and sentences against offenders, including making arrests, executing whippings, serving summonses and writs, collecting fees and fines measured in pounds of tobacco, giving rewards, issuing warnings and building prisons, stocks and pillories. Obviously, things have changed quite a bit since then.

In 1776, the Maryland Constitution required a sheriff to be elected in each county and the city of Baltimore. Each elected sheriff was to serve a term of four years, with no term limits. As the head of a constitutionally appointed office, the sheriff is directly accountable to the voting public. It’s interesting to note that as the 119th sheriff of this county, I can still deputize an individual in cases of emergency. And as another piece of trivia, the longest-serving sheriff in our county was William R. Huggins, who served from 1962 to 1990. His wife, Jean, actually served in an administrative capacity in her husband’s administration.

Since charter government was formed in Anne Arundel County, agreements were reached among officials to have the police department serve as the primary law enforcement agency. The police answer 911 calls for service, handle traffic issues and are responsible for all criminal investigations. The Sheriff’s Office maintains the security of the Circuit Court; serves the majority of all Circuit Court and District Court arrest warrants (felonies and misdemeanors); serves all summonses, domestic relations orders, civil documents, along with the service of peace and protective orders; and handles the coordination off all evictions. The two agencies frequently support each other in criminal and traffic matters for the betterment of our county. The marriage that exists between the two agencies has never been stronger. Feel confident that your Sheriff’s Office and police department share the same mission, which is to provide both professional and uncompromising service to our great county through teamwork and a relentless commitment to excellence.


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