In the United States, a sheriff is generally the chief law enforcement officer for a county. It is usually an elected position, though in emergencies a sheriff may be appointed by county officials.
In a Western, the Sheriff is generally the closest and main law enforcer. It's a very lucrative and powerful (within the county) position, but also comes with great danger and responsibility. The Sheriff often handles minor offenses himself, locking up drunks and rowdies for the night, and assessing smaller fines. He's usually assisted by at least one Deputy Sheriff (often a Clueless Deputy), whom he appoints. Serious crimes must be held over until the Circuit Judge arrives.
This Western Character often overlaps with The Gunslinger, though this is not always the case. A Real Life example of a non-gunfighter sheriff was Bat Masterson, who preferred the "big stick" approach.
The responsibilities of a Sheriff vary considerably from state to state or even county to county. He may share duties more commonly thought of as belonging to the Tax Collector, County Treasurer, emergency management office, or even Coroner.
Game and Story Use
- Their function in a story is very flexible, ranging from The Hero through Reasonable Authority Figure and Obstructive Bureaucrat to Corrupt Hick.
- The Sheriff is the person most likely to chase you to The County Line.
- He may also be the person sent out to recover bodies discovered in the wilderness. Fun job.