In any jurisdiction, there may be a multitude of different law enforcement officials that help keep communities safe and free from crime. Beyond local police departments, there are also sheriffs' offices and constables' offices in many counties and townships. While both of these offices are concerned with areas of law enforcement, there are some distinct differences between the jurisdictions, duties and scope of these two offices. Notably, the deputy sheriffs are more similar to deputy constables than to the constable himself.
Chain of Command
Perhaps the biggest difference between a sheriff's deputies and constables lies in the chain of command. Each sheriff's office has a very clear chain. At the very top is the sheriff, an officer that is elected to serve by the public. Beneath him are officers that he hires to assist him, including an undersheriff, captains, lieutenants, sergeants, corporals and finally deputy sheriffs. (See Reference 1.) The chain of command at a constable's office varies from one department to another, though the general model is similar to that of a sheriff's department. However, in this chain of command, the constable acts most like the sheriff and is at the top of the chain as an elected official. Beneath him, there may be chiefs, captains, lieutenants and finally deputy constables. (See Reference 2.) Thus, deputy sheriffs are more similarly aligned with deputy constables rather than with the constable himself. Still, there are a number of differences between both types of deputy and between the offices themselves.
The jurisdiction for a constable's office is often much smaller than that of a sheriff's office. Typically, a sheriff's office protects a whole county, and the sheriff's deputies have the jurisdiction to pursue and prosecute crime within that entire area. (See Reference 1.) Deputy constables, on the other hand, are often limited to a particular township, city or precinct. Within a particular county, there may be multiple constables' offices, each focused on its own part of that county. (See Reference 2.)
Another significant difference between deputy sheriffs and deputy constables involves the duties that each is expected to perform. Deputy sheriffs are full-fledged law enforcement and crime-prevention officials. As such, they are trained to carry firearms and patrol. They are also sometimes responsible for investigating crime, apprehending suspects, making arrests and transporting criminals. Constables, on the other hand, are more often concerned with keeping the peace than pursuing criminals. Though they are also law enforcement officials that could serve on patrol or in the apprehension of suspects, a constable's duties focus mainly on protection of the public. Commonly, they act as bailiffs in courts, serve to protect public functions and control traffic. Though sheriffs' deputies also may perform these functions, again, the focus is generally on direct confrontation or supervision of criminals and suspects. (See References 1 and 5.)
Related to jurisdiction and expected duties, there are also differences in the scope of crime that sheriffs' offices and constables' offices can pursue. Sheriffs' offices are concerned with any crime within a particular county, severity notwithstanding. Constables' offices, on the other hand, are often limited by how severe of a crime they may pursue and investigate. Typically, only misdemeanors and minor felonies are pursued by constables and deputy constables, whereas sheriffs and sheriffs' deputies deal with these crimes and any more serious violations of the law. (See References 1 and 5.)