Each of Alabama’s sixty-seven (67) counties has a sheriff’s department responsible for the safety and peace of its citizens. Sheriff departments are equipped to provide administrative services, field operation services, support services, and correction facility support to the entire county, and they’re responsible for the sanctity of law enforcement in their respective jurisdictions. The sheriff’s department ensures the safety of all parties involved in any court proceeding, from summons to incarceration.
While the sheriff is known as the chief law enforcement officer, his or her staff can be better understood as stewards of local, state, and national law enforcement within their respective county jurisdictions. While each sheriff department operates uniquely from the rest, each’s responsibilities are dictated by the Alabama state constitution, including the safety of court and other government buildings, the maintenance and security of all county jailing facilities, the operation of elections, and the state of law enforcement within their respective counties. These duties never cease, and while all these responsibilities ultimately rest upon the appointed position of the sheriff him/herself, each sheriff delegates deputies and chiefs who operate under the name of the sheriff to promote peace and law.
These delegated positions include patrol sheriff’s deputies, support deputies, administrative deputies, investigative deputies, detention facility staff, and some sheriff’s departments are even so comprehensive as to include animal control departments and victim advocate agencies. Some of these departments are mandated by the state of Alabama, but some sheriff’s departments are more inclusive than others, offering additional services that aren’t required by law. Additionally, some sheriffs operate as the main law enforcement agency in a county, offering a comprehensive, in-house approach against crime, others give some enforcement and peace keeping duties over to city police departments and other local agencies.
Almost every sheriff’s department, however, includes patrol deputies who patrol for potential crimes within the jurisdiction. These patrol deputies are almost always supported by administrative and support deputies who provide essential technical and administrative support, providing efficiency and organization to make the most of patrol time and resources. Every sheriff department also includes security and detention deputies who oversee the security of court proceedings and detention facilities, preventing inmate escape and escalation in the event of a disturbance.
In order to become a sheriff’s deputy, operating in one of the sheriff’s department’s divisions, carrying out the duties of the sheriff within a jurisdiction, applicants must pass a rigid set of requirements. This set of obligations includes United States citizenship, a clean driving and felony record, a minimum requirement of a high school diploma or equivalent, and they must pass various written and physical examinations to prove their intelligence, agility, and trustworthiness. The qualifications for the position of sheriff are even more rigid, including an extensive history of upstanding character within law enforcement, gaining the trust of a majority of the community, and usually an advanced educational degree in criminal justice or law enforcement.
Considering the vast service requirements of each county’s sheriff’s department, it’s no surprise such extensive qualifications and training are required. One of the biggest, and most dangerous, responsibilities of the sheriff and his or her deputies is the management of all county jailing facilities. These facilities house a range of types of criminals, and the environment can be hazardous to untrained personnel. For this reason, all sheriff’s deputies, staff, and volunteers at a county jail must be trained to withstand complications of many kinds.
Many sheriffs have increased sheriff’s deputy presence at county jails in recent years to ensure the safety of inmates and staff members alike. Increased personnel allows jails to become a safer environment for inmates and visitors, enabling a system of visitation that promotes rehabilitation through inmate relationships with the outside world. This motivation encourages inmates to improve and provides incentives for good behavior, promoting positive change and deterring further criminal activity.
In order for visitation from outside relations to be feasible, strict procedure is in place to ensure the safety of inmates, visitors, and staff. Visitors can be placed on a list to visit a specific inmate during visitation hours, granting them access to supervised visitation. In addition, all visitors agree to appear absent of any contraband materials, or risk expulsion from jail grounds. Civilians interested in visiting an inmate may access the Alabama Department of Corrections’ inmate online database and search by name or inmate identification number, which grants access to public records about the inmate’s location, sentence duration, case number, and offense.