This is a history of the Weld County Sheriff's Office, to the fullest extent possible. The work would not be complete if it did not include a history of the County itself to help explain the formation of the Sheriff's Office. Weld County has one of the most colorful histories in the state, and included in that history are the sheriffs who have served the County.
We have also include much of the information on the history of the building itself, which is a big part of the Sheriff's Office, as well as the cars and weapons of the department. We have also mentioned some of the organizations that are involved with the Sheriff's Office, and without their help we would not be as nearly as effective as we are. Included in these organizations are the Weld County Sheriff's posse, which in itself is an important part of the history of the Sheriff's Office.
REEVE OF THE SHIRE
The modern office of sheriff in the United States descends from a one-thousand-year-old English tradition: a "shire-reeve" (shire-keeper) is the oldest appointment of the English crown. The name is said to be derived from the Saxon seyre, shire or county, and reve, keeper, bailiff, or guardian. Historically, county governments were unusually the first established units of government in newly settled American colonies. Sheriffs were often among the first elected public officials in an area and developed a leading role in local law enforcement. Although the office was brought to the United States from England, it is frequently unknown in most nations which use federal and state police. Canada, for example, has the highly-professional Royal Canadian Mounted Police (and its Quebec equivalent) for most police work outside cities.
As part of the traditional common-law duties passed down from the English, sheriffs retain the power to summon the aid of a posse, or Posse Comitatus, as it is sometimes called. The notion of a posse comitatus has its roots in ancient English Law, growing out of a citizen's traditional duty to raise a "hue and cry" whenever a serious crime occurred in a village, thus rousing the fellow villagers to assist the sheriff in pursuing the culprit. By the seventeenth century, trained militia bands were expected to perform the duty of assisting the sheriff in such tasks, but all males age fifteen and older still had the duty to serve on the posse comitatus.
In the United States, the posse comitatus was an important institution on the western frontier, where it became known as the posse. At various times vigilante committees, often acting without legal standing, organized posses to capture wrongdoers. Such posses sharply warned first-time cattle rustlers, for instance, and usually hanged or shot second-time offenders. In 1876 a four-hundred-man posse killed one member of the infamous Jesse James gang and captured two others.
In 1878 the use of a posse comitatus was limited by the passage of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. This act, passed in response to the use of federal troops to enforce reconstruction policies in the southern states, prohibited the use of the U.S. Army to enforce laws unless the Constitution or an act of Congress explicitly authorized such use. This act was amended five times in the 1980s, largely to allow for the use of military resources to combat trafficking in illicit narcotics.
Though rarely used, the posse comitatus continues to be a modern legal institution. For example, in June 1977, in Aspen, Colorado, the Pitkin County, Colorado Sheriff called out the posse comitatus—ordinary citizens with their own weapons—to hunt for escaped mass murderer Theodore ("Ted") Bundy (he was later recaptured by Pitkin County Deputies).
Dual, common roles frequently exist today between a sheriff's jurisdiction and the jurisdiction of a local, community police department. A metropolitan area may encompass an entire county or more, and police departments and sheriffs will often maintain concurrent jurisdiction in these overlapping areas. Sheriffs often rely on local police department to perform the duty of enforcing the law in the police department’s jurisdiction, but ultimate obligation often rests with the sheriff and requires him or her to act when necessary. Most jurisdictions work well together, serving a common purpose and goal; there are multiple examples of inter-agency cooperation and teamwork.
Some state constitutions specifically provide for the office of Sheriff, and State legislatures frequently establish conditions of office. In Colorado, Article 14, Section 8 of the State Constitution provides, in part, “There shall be elected in each county, at the same time at which members of the general assembly are elected, commencing in the year nineteen hundred and fifty-four, and every four years thereafter …one sheriff”. In Weld County, Article X (Ten), Sections 10-1 and 10-3 of the Weld County Home Rule Charter define the Qualifications and Duties of the Weld County Sheriff.
References and Citations
West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill
Brennan, Columb. 1992. "Sheriffs' 1,000 Years." Law Institute Journal 66 (December).
Gullion, Steve. 1992. "Sheriffs in Search of a Role." New Law Journal (August 14).
SHERIFF'S OFFICE TODAY
The makeup of the Sheriff's Office today in no way resembles the Sheriff's Office of 1861. Today the budget exceeds 22 million dollars, and employs nearly 300 professional people. The Computer has replaced the pencil in many ways, to make the job faster and sometimes easier. There are currently 64 counties in the State of Colorado, and each has a Sheriff. They range from two or three person agencies to over one hundred employees. Today deputies perform functions from transportation to investigation, with several categories in between. All Sheriff's Offices in the State employ the latest law enforcement techniques and methods that all professional agencies in the world use, and while doing so there is a strong feeling of tradition that roots itself in the history of the country itself. Most Deputy Sheriff's perform the same functions that their Police Officer counter parts perform, plus a few more, and usually do so at a lesser wage then they would if they worked at a municipal Police Department. I'm not sure why this is, but I believe that this says something about the commitment of the Deputies not only to law enforcement, but to the Community they live in.
I don't have a crystal ball but I believe that the Sheriff's Office will continue to be an important part of the County and State government. I believe that the future will see a rapid growth in law enforcement technology, but this will be mixed with more community involvement. Whether we are riding horses or going from call to call in some type of spacecraft, we will be there to try to meet the public need for law enforcement.