Crawford Co Sheriff's Office

Historical Listing of Office Holder

The Office of the Sheriff is more than 1,000 years old. From the beginning of English and Scottish law, the sheriff's office was the center of the local administration of justice. The word "reeve" meant an administrative office and the word "shire" was the equivalent of a county. Therefore, the first office title was "ShireReeve", which was in time, shortened to the word "Sheriff" as we know it today.


History of the Office of Sheriff

By the Michigan Sheriffs' Association

The word sheriff is derived from the two words - "shire" meaning county, and "reeve" meaning an ancient English officer of justice.

Following the Norman conquest of England in 1066 the sheriff gradually became the principal officer of a county.  Appointment to the office was made by the King and obviously the sheriff was the King's man.  Principally the sheriff's duties were the collection of the King's taxes, acting as the King's fiscal officer and keeping the King's peace.

Several references are made to sheriffs in the Magna Carta which King John of England was forced to sign on June 15, 1215.

In what became the United States, counties were finally organized in Virginia in 1634.  When they were, the sheriff was their head.  It was specifically provided by the legislative body of the colony then that the sheriff should have as near as possible the powers the duties of a sheriff of the English shires.   Appointment of sheriffs were made by the colonial governors.

Records in the Michigan archives state that the Ordinance of 1787 established the Northwest Territory of which Michigan was a part and defined the procedure for obtaining statehood.  Detroit became a part of the administrative district of Hesse under British civil government.

A court of common pleas, county lieutenant, Sheriff and justices of the peace were established in each district.

Evidently 1787 was the first time the office of Sheriff was established in Michigan; however, the State Library cannot locate the name of the Sheriff.*

Wayne County was the first county to be organized in Michigan having a county Sheriff.  The Tenth Territorial Papers covering the years 1805-1820 reveal that Gov. Lewis Cass on November 21, 1815, appointed James H. Audrain the Sheriff of Wayne County and constable of the district of Erie.

In this country with the development of the office, the outstanding difference is that the Sheriff became an elected official as provided for in most state constitutions.  It should be noted that a sheriff is the only elected peace officer in each county, which results in local control of police activities by the people rather than by the state.

The Michigan Constitution of 1963 provides for the election of a sheriff in each of the 83 counties in Michigan.1  Thus, as an elected constitutional police officer, the sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer in each county.

His responsibilities cover the entire spectrum of law enforcement - criminal investigations, traffic patrol and accidents, service of all legal processes of the courts, operation of the county jail, marine and snowmobile safety, education and enforcement and total police service on a 24-hour basis.  His primary duty is to provide complete police services to the unincorporated areas of the county.  However, he maintains full police jurisdiction in all municipalities, townships and villages.   All sheriffs have full police authority in any county in Michigan when requested to assist by another sheriff.

Unfortunately, the detailing of the exact duties of a sheriff, as provided over the years by the legislature, are scattered throughout the numerous volumes of the recorded statutes of Michigan.  In addition, many of the duties and responsibilities of a sheriff are rooted in the common law, or case law, which may necessitate lengthy research to establish authority or a principle.

An interesting phenomenon exists today in Michigan county government.   There is no executive head.  All other levels of government provide for one individual, such as a president, governor, supervisor, mayor, etc., who is the chief administrative officer.  Historically, both in England and in this county, the sheriff was the executive head of the county.  Thomas Jefferson, in his work called "The Value of Constitutions", wrote "the office of sheriff is the most important of all the executive offices of the country."

Black's Law Dictionary defines a sheriff as "The chief executive and administrative officer of a county, being chosen by popular election."

More or less by default the executive duties of county government have been assumed by the board of commissioners and, more specifically, the chairman of the board which, of course, violates the separation of powers doctrine.

The county board of commissioners is empowered to set and approve the sheriff's budget, but otherwise has little or no authority over the sheriff or his department.

Few people realize the extent of the duties and responsibilities of a sheriff.  Because of nearly autonomous status a sheriff may find himself immersed in a host of activities, all requiring a semblance of skill and judgment.

Basically a sheriff department has two essential functions - police work and jail operation - both of which are 24 hour a day, seven days a week operations.   The modern-day sheriff is confronted more and more with administrative problems requiring expertise not only in policing activities but business management as well.   Numerous reports are required by state and federal agencies.  Accounting procedures must reflect state guidelines.

New legislation and court decisions are constantly impacting upon the criminal justice system.  For example, decriminalization of alcohol use, civil rights, Miranda warnings, changes in the mental health code, changes in the juvenile code and many others.  All of these affect the operations of a sheriff department.   All are fairly recent developments or a subject of increased activity.

* April 30, 1789 - George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States of America.

1.  Article VII, Sec. 4

Sheriff's of Crawford Co    

Name of Sheriff Year Started
  Year Ended
Kirk A. Wakefield 2002 Current

David G. Lovely 1993   2002

Harold Hatfield 1985

Joseph P White 1980

Larry C. Haas 1977

Harold A. Hatfield 1973

Arthur F. Clough 1961

John A. Papendick 1953

William Golnick 1947

John A. Papendick 1939

Frank Bennett 1933

Jesse E. Bobenmoyer 1925

Peter F. Jorgeson 1923

Ernest P. Richardson 1919

William H. Cody 1915

Homer G. Benedict 1911

Charles W. Amidon 1907

Abner J. Stillwell 1903

George F. Owen 1899

William S. Chalker 1895

Thomas Wakeley 1891

William McCullough 1887

John F. Huem 1883

David London 1879

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