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History of Sheriff’s Office

A Shire is a traditional term for a division of land, found in the United Kingdom, Ireland and in Australia.

The first shires of Scotland were created in Anglian areas such as Lothian and the Borders, (Bernicia) in the ninth century. The word derives from the Old English, scir, and appears to be allied to shear,shore, "share"(cropper) as it is a division of the land. King David I more consistently created shires and appointed sheriffs across lowland shores of Scotland. The system was spread to most of the rest of England in the tenth century, somehow losing its original meaning and becoming part of the establishment.

In the British Isles, "shire" is the original term for what is usually known as a county; the word county having been introduced at the Norman Conquest of England. The two are synonymous. Although in modern British usage counties are referred to as "shires" mainly in poetic contexts, terms such as Shire Hall remain common. Shire also remains a common part of many county names.

The shire in early days was governed by an Ealdorman and in the later Anglo-Saxon period by royal official known as a "shire reeve" or sheriff. The shires were divided into hundreds or wapentakes, although other less common sub-divisions existed. An alternative name for a shire was a "sheriffdom" until sheriff court reforms separated the two concepts. In Scotland the word "county" was not adopted for the shires. Although "county" appears in some texts, "shire" was the normal name until counties for statutory purposes were created in the nineteenth century.

Anglo-Saxon England

Before the Conquest, a reeve (Old English gerefa) was an administrative officer who generally ranked lower than the ealdorman or earl. The Old English word gerefa is originally a general sort of term, but soon acquired a more technical meaning. Different types of Reeves attested before the Conquest include the high-reeve, town-reeve, port-reeve, shire-reeve (predecessor to the sheriff), reeve of the hundred and the reeve in charge of an estate. The word is often rendered in Latin as prefectus by the historian Bede and some early charters, while West-Saxon charters prefer to reserve the term prefectus for ealdormen.

High Middle Ages

In later medieval England, a Reeve was an official appointed to supervise lands for a lord. He had many duties such as making sure the serfs started work on time and ensuring that no one was cheating the lord out of money.

England in the early 1000s employed the services of shire reeves to assist in the detection and prevention of crimes. Groups of 10 families or "tithings" were commissioned for an early form of neighborhood watch, and were organized into groups of 100 families or "hundreds." The hundreds were supervised by a constable. Groups of hundreds within a specific geographic area were combined to form shires and were under control of the king. The Reeve of an entire Shire was a Shire-reeve, predecessor to the Sheriff.

A sheriff is in principle a legal official with responsibility for a county. In practice, the specific combination of legal, political, and ceremonial duties of a sheriff varies greatly from country to country.

The word "sheriff" is a contraction of the term "shire reeve". The term, from the Old English scîrgerefa, designated a royal official responsible for keeping the peace (a "reeve") throughout a shire or county on behalf of the king.  The term was preserved in England notwithstanding the Norman Conquest. From the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms the term spread to several other countries, at an early point to Scotland, latterly to Ireland and the United States.

The position of sheriff now exists in various countries:

* Sheriffs are administrative legal officials (similar to bailiffs) in Ireland, Australia, and Canada.
* Sheriffs are judges in Scotland.
* Sheriff is a ceremonial position in England, Wales, and India.

* In the United States of America the role of a sheriff varies between different states and counties. In many rural areas, sheriffs and their deputies are the principal form of police, while in urban areas they may have more specialized duties, such as administering the county jail, courtroom security, prisoner transport, serving warrants, service of process or police administration. Sheriffs may also patrol outside of city/town limits or jurisdiction.

In British English, the political or legal office of a sheriff is called a shrievalty.

In the United States, a sheriff is generally, but not always, the highest law enforcement officer of a county. A sheriff is in most cases elected by the population of the county. In some states the sheriff is officially titled "High Sheriff", although the title is very rarely actually used.

The political election of a person to serve as a police leader is an almost uniquely American tradition. (The practice has been followed in the British Channel Island of Jersey since at least the 16th century.

A sworn law enforcement officer working for a sheriff is called a "sheriff's deputy", "sheriff's officer", or something similar, and is authorized to perform the sheriff's duties. In many states the law enforcement officer are often called "county mounties" for the hat they generally wear as part of their usually two-tone brown uniform with a mountie-style hat. In some states, a sheriff may not be a sworn officer, but merely an elected official in charge of sworn officers.

These officers may be subdivided into "general deputies" and "special deputies". In some places, the sheriff has the responsibility to recover any deceased persons within their county, in which case the full title is "sheriff-coroner".  In Missouri this is still the case in the abscense of the coroner the Sheriff recovers and investigate deceased persons.  The Elected Coroner of the county is also the only person who can serve process on the Sheriff.

In some counties, the sheriff's principal deputy is the warden of the county jail or other local correctional institution.  In Missouri the Sheriff is the keeper of the Jails and houses State prisoners for all jurisdictions in the County.

In some areas of the United States, the sheriff is also responsible for collecting the taxes and may have other titles such as tax collector or county treasurer.

Although rare, the sheriff may also be responsible for the county civil defense, emergency disaster service, rescue service, or emergency management.

In the U.S., the relationship between the sheriff and other police departments varies widely from state to state, and indeed in some states from county to county. In the northeastern U.S., the sheriff's duties have been greatly reduced with the advent of state-level law enforcement agencies, especially the state police and local agencies such as the county police. In Vermont, for instance, the elected sheriff is primarily an officer of the County Court, whose duties include running the county jail and serving papers in lawsuits and foreclosures. Law enforcement patrol is performed as well, in support of State Police and in the absence of a municipal police agency in rural towns.

By contrast, in other municipalities, the sheriff's office may be merged with most or all city-level police departments within a county to form a consolidated city-county or metropolitan police force responsible for general law enforcement anywhere in the county. The sheriff in such cases serves simultaneously as sheriff and chief of the consolidated police department. Examples include the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the Miami-Dade Police Department.

Sheriff offices may coexist with other county level law enforcement agencies such as county police, county park police, county detectives, and example would be St. Louis where they have the Sheriff and the St. Louis County Police.

The New York City Sheriff is appointed by the mayor and his or her jurisdiction covers all five county-boroughs of New York City (King's County, Queen's County, Richmond County, Bronx County and New York County). The New York Sheriff is responsible to the city's Finance Department.

There are also states in the US that do not have sheriffs, such as Connecticut. In Connecticut, where county government itself has been abolished, the state and local police have sole responsibility for law enforcement.


Cape Girardeau County Sheriff History:


In 1803 the United States purchased the land in which Cape Girardeau County was situated under jurisdiction of Governor William Henry Harrison of the Territory of Indiana. In 1804 Governor Harrison established the areas of St. Charles, St. Louis, Ste. Genevieve, Cape Girardeau, and New Madrid.

On March 19, 1805 John Hays was appointed the first Sheriff of Cape Girardeau County. Hays stayed in office for 17 years. The Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Office is one of the first five Sheriff's Offices' established in Missouri, part of Arkansas and west of the Mississippi River.

Cape Girardeau County was part of the Territory of Louisiana until 1812 when it became known as the Territory of Missouri. In 1814 the legislature named Jackson, Missouri as the new county seat. In 1820 Cape Girardeau County sent a delegate, Stephen Byrd, to help organize the newly established Territory of Missouri. The first Sheriff's had other duties besides law enforcement. The Sheriff's also acted as the County Collector of Revenue and Treasurer.

In 1828 Cape Girardeau County executed its first prisoner for capital murder. Pressly Morris was convicted and sentenced to hang for using a knife to kill a Scott County man. That same year two more executions for murder were carried out in Cape Girardeau County. The last lawful execution by hanging occurred on June 15, 1899, next to the old Courthouse in Jackson when John Headrick was hanged for the murder of James Lail.

The first Cape Girardeau County Jail was completed in December 1806. It was built from local grown timber and measured 12' X 25'. Sheriff Hays declared it unsatisfactory as a jail and refused to use it. In 1812 the Grand Jury of the county agreed, so in 1819 a new jail was built, but it was destroyed by fire and a new one built that same year at a cost of $1,400. The jail was used until 1849 when a new one was built only to be torn down in 1859 due to poor construction and a new brick one was built. Two other jails were built on the courthouse square and utilized until 1979.

In 1979 a new linear style 58-bed facility was opened at 215 N. High Street in Jackson. The facility is still used today as an over-flow facility for the new Cape Girardeau County Justice Center located at 216 N. Missouri Street in Jackson.

The current Justice Center opened in March of 2001 and houses 152 inmates.
The facility is a state of the art pod style jail complete with touch-screen computer terminals to control elevators and doors. This new facility has a video arraignment connection between the jail and the courts.

Constitutional Officer

The Sheriff of Cape Girardeau County today, as did the first Sheriff, serves three basic functions.

Keeper of the courts, keeper of the jail, and keeper of the peace.

Long live the office of Sheriff and may he/she forever be an officer elected by their peers.

The Oath of Office given to the Sheriff and each of his Deputies upon being sworn into office

I ________ do solemnly swear that I will protect, defend and preserve the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Missouri, and to the best of my ability will perform the duties of the Office of Deputy Sheriff of Cape Girardeau County, Missouri.



Hays, John              1805-1822
Creath, William       1822-1828
Hendricks, John      1828-1830
Sheppard, John       1830-1834
Russell, James       1834-1838
Johnson, John M.    1838-1842
Horrell, William W.  1842-1844
Bennett, James N.  1844-1848
Edinger, J.P.           1848-1852
Morgan, William      1852-1856
Burns, James F.     1856-1858
Rupell, Elam W.      1858-1862
Whitener, Preston   1862-1863
Bruhl, Henry            1863-1867
Bader, Harman        1867-1870
Albert, John             1870-1878
Seibert, J.M.            1878-1882
Kage, F.A.               1882-1886
Carroll, A.B.             December 1886-January 1887
Bierwirth, August     January-March 1887
Cracraft, W.C.         May 1887-1889
Bierwirth, August      1889-1893
Randol, Judson M.    1893-1896
Jenkins, John H.       1897-1898
Gockel, Bernhard     1899-1902
Schade, William F.   1903-1904
Gockel, Bernhard      1905-1908
Schade, Williams F.  1909-1912
Summers, William A.1913-1916
Hutson, Nathaniel J.  1917-1920
Browning, William     1921-1924
Schae, William F.      1925-1928
Snider, Nat Miller        1929-1932
Hoffman, Adam H.      1933-1936
Hartle, Fred                1937-1940
Schade, Ruben R.      1941-1944
Sewing, Herman K.     1945-1946
Klaus, Alven F.           1947-1956
Crites, John C.           1957-1966
McLain, Ivan E.           1967-1976
Below, Jimmy Joe       1977-1980
Gribler, Herman (Bob) 1981-1984
Thomas, Dwight          1985-1986
Copeland, Norman      1986-August 1994
Jordan, John              1994 -August 13, 2018

Dickerson, Ruth Ann   August 13, 2018 - Present

Sheriff Dickerson is the very first female Sheriff in Cape Girardeau County History.