The office of the sheriff has existed for ages. In the Holy Bible, King James Version, Daniel 3:2 references "sheriffs." Nebuchadnezzar sends for his officers to gather for the dedication of an image. One officer summoned was his sheriffs, the position was a Babylonian officer. The exact role of this officer is unknown.
Anglo-Saxon law dated A.D. circa 690 notes that scirman is the headman of the shire. In medival England, a king's kingdom was divided into territories, known as a shire. Our English word sheriff is thought to have been derived from shire reeve. The reeve was the administrator of the shire, a geographical region of the kingdom.
Duties of the Anglo-Saxon sheriff were voluminous. According to Officium Vicecomitum "...had the custody of all the royal desmesnes within his shire; presided over the shire court in the absence of the earl (either with the bishop or alone); proclaimed and executed all the king's commands which he received by royal writ; preserved the king's peace by means of his power to arrest, to raise the 'hue and cry' and imprison felons; collected and accounted for all judicial fines, taxes, and extraordinary fiscal levies; presided over the Hundred Court when touring his shire to inspect the 'tithing' groups; provided for the king's safety and necessities; exacted all services which were due to the Crown; raised and led the local fyrd; distributed alms; paid the wages of messengers, doorkeepers, etc attached to the castle; seized the forfeited lands of traitors and other malefactors; carried out the king's orders for the alienation of the Crown lands and enforced the numerous regulations connected with trade, currency, weights and measures, fairs and markets."
At least as early as 1597, the sheriff, known as the shire reeve, was an immediate officer to the King's courts. The sheriff was a Royal Crown officer and appointed by the king.
The role as jailor for the sheriff is just an ancient. The Assize of Clarendon in 1166 A.D. enacted that "...jails be built in counties where there were none, and placed either in a borough or a castle so that sheriffs might in these guard...the criminals who were taken."
In 1854 it was written that the duty of the shire-reeve as peace keeper was: ...a principal and special conservator of the peace in every place within his county; and hath committed unto him the custody of his county, for the time that he is sheriff; and is to see the peace thereof kept and maintained; and, upon request to him made, he may command, and cause another to find sureties for the peace; and may take the same surety by recognizance...every sheriff (by the common laws of this realm) may do, and is bound to do, his best endeavour for the convervation of the king's peace, and may and out to pursue, apprehend, arrest, and imprison all traitors, murderers, robbers, and other felons, and all such other as do break, or go about to break or disturb the king's peace within his county...
In a letter from Thomas Jefferson, dated July 12, 1816, Jefferson commented on the office of the sheriff. The letter was in response to Samuel Kercheval regarding the reform of the Virginia Constitution. An excerpt from the letter is "... the most important of all the executive officers of the county;...". The letter proposed amendments to the constitution requiring the sheriff be elected by people. To this point in time, the judges appointed the sheriff.
The Office of the Sheriff is a constitutional office mandated through the state for each county. It is the chief law enforcement for each county. The position of sheriff was included in the Constitution of Georgia, 1777. The office was in effect in the colonial days of Georgia. The impact of our ancestral fathers in England surely guided their creation of the office of the sheriff in the America colonies. Henceforth, the paths for the office have diverged. There is indeed a great degree of difference from today's sheriffs of America and the sheriffs of Britain.
Duties of the sheriff have changed over the years, some would describe it as evolve while others devolve. Most of the tax collection process has been regulated to the offices of Tax Commissioner and Tax Assessor. The role of local court hearings has been granted to inferior courts within the county. Obviously, the sheriff no longer serves the king, but serves the citizens of the state and the courts.