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In the United States, a sheriff is generally the chief law enforcement officer for a county or parish. It is usually an elected position, though in emergencies a sheriff may be appointed by county officials. Sheriffs and their agencies have the most influence in areas without a local police force, so expect to see them in rural areas or Small Towns.

In a Western, the Sheriff is generally the closest and main law enforcer. Their function in a story is very flexible, ranging from The Hero through Reasonable Authority Figure and Obstructive Bureaucrat to Corrupt Hick. It's a very lucrative and powerful (within the county) position, but also comes with great danger and responsibility.

In most works of fiction, the sheriff wears a distinct badge, usually star-shaped. And the sheriff usually is not the highest authority; he is actually appointed by and answers to an Ultimate Authority Mayor, who may occasionally be a Corrupt Politician. A corrupt sheriff, however, can have influence over a weak mayor. If the sheriff is ever disgraced or otherwise found to be morally unworthy of his title, the customary action is for The Hero to shoot a hole through this badge, symbolic of the title being stripped.

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He's usually assisted by at least one Deputy Sheriff (often a Clueless Deputy), whom he appoints. Officers working for the sheriff's office are known as deputies, as they act as substitutes for the sheriff. Thus one of the stock tropes of the western is the county jail with its one cell, a desk for the sheriff and, across the room, a smaller desk for his deputy.

In some Westerns, "Sheriff" is conflated with "Town Marshal" (not to be confused with the U.S. Marshal, like Marshal Dillon), a more localized version. If the plotline is about cleaning up one lawless town, with no reference to the rest of the county, you may be seeing this in action.

The Sheriff often handles minor offenses himself, locking up drunks and rowdies for the night. But serious crimes must be held over until the Circuit Judge arrives.

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In westerns, this 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.

As a stock plot, The Gunslinger (sometimes, the Young Gun, but if so he'll have his more experienced advisor with him) comes into town, and is immediately appointed The Sheriff by the townspeople. This invariably means there's a villain (an Outlaw or a old-west-style Corrupt Corporate Executive) in town who has run off or killed the old sheriff and is terrorizing the townspeople, stealing cattle, cheating at poker, and probably not paying his brothel bill. It's up to the new guy to avoid getting killed, beat the villain, then move on. Also see The Drifter for more detail on this.

The name is derived from the English "shire reeve", corrupted to "sheriff" over time. The position had similar duties and powers, but was appointed by the Crown. Perhaps the most famous Sheriff is the Sheriff of Nottingham. Outside of the US, a sheriff is normally a ceremonial post; in Scotland they are judges.

In the modern day, sheriffs tend to use their guns a lot less. In metropolitan counties, the sheriff's department generally runs the jail and does process serving, among other duties. As with everything else in America, this varies not only from state to state, but also from town to town. As with police chiefs, sheriffs are desk-bound managers in all but the smallest agencies. Regardless, as sheriffs are usually elected officials, they're usually politicians, with all the good and bad that entails.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Elmore Evans, the eponymous sheriff in Lies of the Sheriff Evans: Dead or Love. He's a great gunslinger, stoic, good looking, and all around excellent law enforcer... who became a great gunslinger and sheriff specifically to become popular with women. Despite everything, he's had zero success, due to a mixture of "a lot of the women he's interested in turn out to be criminals" (he does take his job seriously), "his attempts to seem cool based on his father's advice make them think he isn't interested", and "he and his rival are both interested in each other, but she's just as bad when it comes to romance as he is".
  • Kirito functioned as this in Sword Art Online. Unofficial, since SAO had no actual law enforcement, but when the player whose strength and skill is second only to the GM decides to take down bandits dead or alive, he's earned the right to be called sheriff.

    Comic Books 
  • Clara Bronson's job in Copperhead. Her deputy Boo served as the interim sheriff after the last one was killed in the line of duty.
  • Sheriff Diana Prince in the Justice League of America Elseworld Justice Riders. The sheriff of the town of Paradise, she's the only survivor when it gets destroyed by Felix Faust in the pay of Robber Baron Maxwell Lord, and so assembles the Riders to avenge her town.
  • A Stock Character in Lucky Luke, and a very diverse bunch, from the heroic to the corrupt (along with a few Real Life individuals such as the Earp brothers). Luke himself occasionally serves as sheriff, and in one story the town conspired to keep him busy with Fetch Quests so he'd have end up settling down and ensure no criminal would ever threaten them.
  • Pow-Wow Smith was a Golden Age DC Comics Native American sheriff in the New Old West (until the writers forgot, and put him in the regular Old West). The Wild West version of the character was later Retconned as being the present day's one Identical Grandfather.
  • Jesse Custer becomes Sheriff of Salvation in Preacher. When the Klan comes along to make trouble, he pisses out the burning cross they planted on his lawn, beats down the strongest mook they had, then dumps their leader (still in his robes) in the middle of the black part of town.
  • As Sherwood, Texas is a Setting Update of the Robin Hood legend, one of the main bad guys is the Sheriff of Nottingham County: a Dirty Cop and Corrupt Hick who is in league with the outlaw motorcycle gang the Nobles.
  • Basically a Stock Character in Tex Willer, with Tex and his pards often having to help honest ones (that sometimes are their friends and may have called for their help in the first place), if they don't need their help themselves, and defeat (and sometimes kill) criminal ones.
    • The unnamed sheriff of Gallup from the Navajo Blood storyline deserves a special mention for the incredibly badass group he puts together at the end: Tex, Carson, Kit and Tiger Jack as his deputies and a Posse composed by hundreds of pissed-off Navajos. Justified by that storyline's main villains being two Corrupt Hicks who had shot four Navajo boys without provocation and had used their influence to escape the law, and now that Tex had finally succeeded in getting the authorities to move the Navajos wanted to make sure they wouldn't escape arrest and trial again.
  • Malcolm Reynolds, of all people in Boom! Studios Firefly “New Sheriff in the ‘Verse” arc. He is appointed sheriff of a moon called, guess what, Deadwood, and ordered to arrest his mother, who’s been causing Blue Sun and the Alliance trouble. He avoids arresting her but Blue Sun is power hungry and Mal isn’t doing what they’d like, including siding with the little guys a lot and having issues stopping raids on their trucks. They give him a group of patrol bots based on his personality and face but without his sense of doing what’s right and they get so heavy handed that Mal and company raid the control building to destroy them all.

    Film — Animated 
  • Sheriff the police car from Cars.
  • Rango is about a chameleon who accidentally ends up in the town of Dirt, an outpost that is in desperate need of a new sheriff.
  • Woody from Toy Story.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The 1947 John Wayne vehicle Angel and the Badman has Marshal Wistful McClintock, a Friendly Enemy to Wayne's protagonist Quirt Evans, whom he regards as That One Case and says he'll use a new rope when he hangs him. He acts as something of a Greek Chorus, reacting with disbelief at how comfortable Quirt's becoming living with the Worths. He finally kills Evans' enemies Laredo Stevens and Hondo Jeffries when they draw on Quirt in a Showdown at High Noon at the end of the film, and is disappointed not to have caught Quirt red-handed. When Quirt announces to him that he's becoming a farmer and drops his gun in the dirt, McClintock says to his deputy he'll hang it in his office, with a new rope.
  • Avalanche Sharks: Adam, the local sheriff, was described as an Expy of Martin Brody by several reviewers, and his story is largely to Brody's, except it's set in a ski resort town instead of a beach community, and Adam is a supporting character instead of The Hero.
  • Tim Horn (technically a town marshal) in Bad Day at Black Rock. He is also The Alcoholic and a prime example of Police Are Useless.
  • In Bats, Sheriff Emmett Kimsey is not well-equipped to deal with a horde of killer bats, but the people of his county is under threat and it is his duty to protect them.
  • The Big Stampede (1932) - Deputy Sheriff John Steele (also played by Wayne)
  • Black Patch is one of the few westerns to make clear the distinction between town marshal and sheriff. Clay Morgan is the town marshal and his authority is limited to the city limits of his town. Ben Maxton is the county sheriff, with authority across the whole county. He visits Clay because he is visiting all the town marshals to warn them to be on the lookout for an outlaw who robbed the bank in the county seat. Maxton is also the one to arrest Clay when he is accused of murder.
  • Parodied by Sheriff Bart in Blazing Saddles. He was actually appointed by the state government, rather than elected by the town, mainly because the previous sheriff had been murdered and nobody in Rock Ridge wanted to be the replacement. Hedley Lamarr actually appointed him in the hopes that the townspeople would be so disgusted by having a black sheriff they'd leave the town and he could take all the land. Unfortunately for him, Bart turns out to be pretty good at the job and wins everyone over.
  • In The Bravados, Sheriff Eloy Sanchez is a Reasonable Authority Figure who is looking to keep the peace in his town until after the execution of the outlaws. He saves Jim Douglass from angry townsfolk who look ready to lynch him because they suspect he is there to break the outlaws out.
  • In Coroner Creek, Sheriff O'Hea is an alcoholic who holds his job because his daughter Abbie is married to Younger Miles, the powerful man in the town. He is regarded as a joke by the locals, who are astounded when he actually has someone in his cells for the first time anyone can remember. However, after he sees Younger hit Della, he sobers up and decides to start enforcing the law properly, even if it means standing up to Younger. This decision gets him killed.
  • The Sheriff in Curse of the Undead is a Reasonable Authority Figure who remains adamant that he works for the county, and not any one person in it. He refuses to be bought or bullied by the local Cattle Baron Buffer, and attempts to run hired gun Drake Robey out of town on the grounds that he is a danger to public safety. What he is not equipped to deal with, however, is a vampire.
  • Pete Anderson in Day of the Wolves. At least till he is ordered to Turn in Your Badge.
  • One of King Schultz's first actions in Django Unchained is to shoot a town sheriff in cold blood, then calmly inform the Marshal who comes after him that the man was a wanted criminal with a bounty on his head. And then asks to be paid.
  • Doll Factory: Sheriff Bart Barclay is the sheriff of the town who helps the kids deal with evil killer dolls.
  • El Dorado (1966) - Sheriff J.P. Harrah (played by Robert Mitchum)
  • Sheriff Teasle from First Blood, the prototypical "corrupt hick" type who sets off the events of the film by arresting Rambo without proper cause.
  • In Forty Guns, Sheriff Ned Logan is weak, cowardly, venal, lovesick fool who is completely in the pocket of Cattle Baron Jessica Drummond.
  • Grim Prairie Tales: Dr. Leaderman is both the sheriff and Frontier Doctor of the tiny town where the fourth story takes place. He is not very good at either role.
  • The Sheriff in High Plains Invaders is a pompous windbag who is paralyzed with fear when the first Bug attack (causing Sam to sarcastically remark that guns work better when you take them out of the holster). His later attempts to redeem himself just make things worse and result in his death.
  • Sheriff J.W. Pepper in the James Bond films Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun is definitely a 'hick' type, though not particularly corrupt.
  • Jaws: Technically, his job title is Chief of Police, but Martin Brody feels like one of these, with his rural hometown, and only having a single officer working under him. Brody is the sheriff of the resort community Amity Island, and with his one deputy, diligently investigates the shark attacks, tries to close off the beach to keep people safe, and eventually goes out to see with two other men to hunt and kill the shark, in order to end its threat.
  • In Johnny Reno, Sheriff Hodges is not a coward (despite what Mayor Yates thinks), but likes the quiet, easy life and generally goes along with whatever Yates want. Reno eventually forces him to decide if he is on the side of the Mayor or of law and order. Coming down on the side of the law, Hodges nails his colours to Reno's mast.
  • In Knife for the Ladies, Jack Elam plays a small town sheriff dealing a Serial Killer.
  • Little Dead Rotting Hood: Eric Balfour plays Sheriff Adam, who's investigating all the wolf attack-caused deaths in town.
  • Sid Hatfield from the film Matewan (and supposedly in real life) was a badass who stood up for the people of his town against a lot of odds.
  • In The Mystery of the Hooded Horsemen, the sheriff of Redeye is an honest man, but easily duped by the bad guys and prone to jumping to the wrong conclusion.
  • Sheriff McClelland, who heads the zombie-hunting posse in Night of the Living Dead (1968).
  • Sheriff Hague from Planet Terror, played by the ever amazing Michael Biehn.
  • The Love Interest in Practical Magic was a town marshal, and his devotion to the law turned out to be his own personal Applied Phlebotinum.
  • In Prairie Fever, Preston Biggs was the sheriff of Clearwater until he accidentally killed his wife while trying to stop a bank robbery. His replacement is his former deputy, who is a Reasonable Authority Figure who gets Preston the job escorting the women to Carson City in an attempt to get him sobered up and financially solvent.
  • The hero of The Rawhide Terror is the sheriff of Red Dog, who is attempting to capture the Serial Killer plaguing the town.
  • Rio Bravo (1959) - Sheriff John T. Chance (played by John Wayne)
  • Rio Lobo (1970) - Sheriff "Blue Tom" Hendricks (Corrupt Hick version)
  • The Sheriff Of Fractured Jaw has the "unlucky newcomer pressganged into the job" plot foisted on a British Bunny-Ears Lawyer gunsmith, who then has to deal with the rival Cattle Barons warring over the town.
  • Sheriff Buford T. Justice, Jackie Gleason's character in the Smokey and the Bandit films, is another Corrupt Hick example.
  • Sheriffs John Langston (John Cleese) and Cobb (Brian Dennehy) in Silverado. Paden eventually becomes one too, after a showdown with Cobb, whom he replaces.
  • In the New Old West/ Weird West movie ''Stake Land' several of the surviving, walled-off towns in the middle of a world overrun by vampires have leaders/peackeepers who fill this role. Bonus points for the man in charge of the first town being an actual sheriff.
  • Starkweather: Sheriff Merle Karnopp of Lancaster County is a dedicated lawman who finds the body of Starkweather's first victim, and becomes the driving force behind the manhunt to to catch Starkweather and Fugate.
  • Support Your Local Sheriff - starring James Garner as Jason McCullough.
  • The Terror of Tiny Town: The sheriff of Tiny Town is an ex-criminal who is being blackmailed by Bat Haines into turning a blind eye to all of Bat's crimes. Only when the crimes escalate to murder does he find the backbone to stand up to Bat. He then gets shot.
  • Tombstone has both a County Sheriff and a Town Marshal, and Jurisdiction Friction between them is mentioned (though it doesn't get much screentime). Several characters also get deputized at one point or another.
  • Tombstone Rashomon showcases the Jurisdiction Friction between county sheriff Johnny Behan (who sees himself primarily as a politician) and town marshal Virgil Earp (who sees himself primarily as a lawman). And then there's Wyatt Earp, who isn't a lawman but keeps acting like he is.
  • Can't forget Little Bill from Unforgiven.
  • The sheriff of the small upstate town in Wendigo is a Reasonable Authority Figure who is willing to overlook Otis taking potshots at the empty Stuckey house because of the bad hand Otis has been dealt. However, as soon as her learns that Otis has actually shot George, he goes out to Otis' place to arrest him. His attempt to be reasonable and allow Otis to come along on his own terms gets him killed.

    Literature 
  • The original medieval version: Hugh Beringar, Sheriff of Shropshire, in the Brother Cadfael mystery novels.
  • Constable Nezda of Dance of the Butterfly serves as one in his small town in Poland, though he is a corrupt example, working closely with criminals.
  • In the Louis L'Amour novel The Daybreakers, Orrin Sackett parlays his successful term as a town marshal for Mora, New Mexico to run for county sheriff. His brother Tyrel's turn as town marshal for a small mining town doesn't go as well, though he makes a fine deputy sheriff later.
  • Robert McCloskey's children's books Homer Price and Centerburg Tales feature a Spoonerism-prone character who not only is The Sheriff, but is only known as The Sheriff.
  • The Lord of the Rings gives us Hobbit Shirriffs. Until Saruman's takeover they didn't really do anything but watch for trespassers since the Hobbits themselves almost never committed crimes and the land was defended by the Rangers.
  • The Sheriff Joanna Brady mysteries by J.A. Jance. Joanna is sheriff of Cochise County in Arizona; the jurisdiction happens to include Tombstone.
  • Sheriff Baker from The Stand. He comes off as a wannabe-Old West sheriff, but proves a Reasonable Authority Figure, doing his best to help a drifter who got beaten up and robbed by local good old boys. Too bad he's wiped out by the plague only a few chapters in.
  • Waxillium Ladrian became this in the backstory of Wax and Wayne. He started out as a bounty hunter in the Roughs, but eventually took over for the old sheriff, since he was one of the few dedicated enough to take the job.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sheriff Lucas Buck from American Gothic (1995) who was apparently Satan.
  • Andy Taylor of The Andy Griffith Show.
  • Sheriff Elroy P. Lobo from B.J. and the Bear and its spinoff, The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, is a (mild) Corrupt Hick version.
  • Nolan is this in Defiance, though the position is now referred to as "Lawkeeper".
  • Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane from The Dukes of Hazzard is the Corrupt Hick version.
    • Also on the show was Sheriff Little of Chickasaw County, a Scary Black Man version.
  • Sheriff Jack Carter of Eureka, though his job isn't so much to clean up the titular town, as to keep its Mad Scientist residents from turning it into a wasteland in the first place. This is a bit of Hollywood Law as Carter was appointed the Sheriff of Eureka by the federal government rather than elected by local residents, as is normal in the United States.
  • Paladin of Have Gun – Will Travel often interacts with sheriffs in the course of his jobs. In one episode of the Radio Drama, Paladin helps out a "sheriff" (town marshal version) who's just returned from an Eastern education and is trying to enforce the Philadelphia city ordinances on a small cow town.
  • Raylan Givens, the main protagonist of Justified is a US Marshal but he regularly has to interact with the current sheriff of Harlan County. Harlan has had bad luck with sheriffs. The first sheriff we meet, Hunter Mosley, turns out to be working for the Miami cartel and tries to kill Raylan on their orders. His replacement, Tillman Napier, is even more corrupt and easily accepts a Briefcase Full of Money from Detroit mobster Quarles. Napier has the sheriff's election stolen from under him by Boyd Crowder who gets his own candidate, Shelby Parlow, elected to the position. Shelby is actually a good cop who does not want to be in Boyd's pocket but is then revealed to be Drew Thompson who three decades earlier faked his death to get away from the Detroit mob.
  • Walt Longmire, Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, and the eponymous hero of Longmire.
  • Amos Tupper was sheriff of Cabot Cove in Murder, She Wrote, later replaced by Mort Metzger. Both served as Inspector Lestrade to Jessica Fletcher, although they had very different limitations (Amos was an amiable soul who just wasn't cut out for investigating murders, while Mort was an ex-city cop who needed Jessica's help navigating small-town life).
  • Once Upon a Time has first Graham and then Emma, who surprisingly wins the election after Graham's death even though Regina put up her own puppet candidate.
  • Sheriff Logan from The Pinkertons is a Corrupt Hick variant who lets the titular detectives solve the more difficult crimes—as long as he gets the credit.
  • Sheriff Valenti from Roswell
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "A Fistful of Datas", Worf plays a sheriff in a holo-western, with Alexander as his deputy and Troi as The Drifter.
  • Chief of Police Jim Hopper, from Stranger Things, is not a literal sheriff, but somehow manages to radiate raw sheriffness nonetheless.
  • Jody Mills of Supernatural is the local law enforcement in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who becomes an ally of the Winchesters after her son returns as a zombie.
  • Stiles' dad, Sheriff Stilinski, on Teen Wolf.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Dust", Sheriff Koch is sympathetic to Luís Gallegos, who was sentenced to be hanged for running over the Canfield girl in his wagon while drunk. He chastises Sykes for taunting him and protects his father from the angry crowd. Koch is depressed by the thought of Gallegos being hanged and clearly believes that he does not deserve to be hanged but still performs his duty as laid down by the law.
  • Twin Peaks included two sheriffs, one in the series and one in The Movie, Fire Walk with Me. The series had Twin Peaks' Reasonable Authority Figure Sheriff Harry S. Truman, while the movie had Deer Meadow's Corrupt Hick Sheriff Cable.
  • As Neptune, California, in Veronica Mars is an unincorporated town, there is a Sheriff's Department for the county, not a police force. Keith Mars is the ex-sheriff, ousted for political reasons. He was replaced by Sheriff Lamb, who was pretty much just short of being a full-on manifestation of Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop. He's never shown taking bribes, but when a high school student reports that she's been raped, he laughs her out of his office.
  • Sheriff Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead and its TV adaptation. However, since society has pretty much collapsed by the start of both series, being a sheriff basically means Rick has a cool costume and a Nice Hat. On the other hand, before the end he was essentially an ordinary cop with a fancy title, whereas his lawbringing behavior post-outbreak is much more in keeping with the Western stereotype.
  • Wonder Woman: In "The Murderous Missle", the entire town of Burrogone was replaced by members of a criminal conspiracy to steal the eponymous missile. This included Sheriff Beal. Wonder Woman took care of him by hanging him up on a barn wall.
  • Sheriff Randy Nedley in Wynonna Earp. At the beginning of the series, he's quite the Jerkass to Wynonna (although to be fair to him, she is a known troublemaker and petty criminal), but is later revealed to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold and a Reasonable Authority Figure.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In Rick O'Shay, Deputy Sheriff Rick O'Shay is the top lawman in town, and checks all the sheriff boxes. (The town supposedly isn't large enough to qualify for a full sheriff.)
  • The Sheriff in Tumbleweeds is literally this. Besides it being his job, it's also the only name he's called.

    Pinball 

    Video Games 
  • Marshal Waits of Sevastopol from the game Alien: Isolation is this trope Recycled IN SPACE!. Representative of the Colonial Marshals, he's responsible for law and order in Sevastopol, which also means he's determined to kill the xenomorph that's stalking the population.
  • Assassin's Creed Origins has an Ancient Egyptian Ur-Example of sorts with Bayek, a Medjay who serves as the protector of the Siwa Oasis which is far away from the Greco-Roman influenced cities of Alexandria and Memphis in Ptolemaic era Egypt.
  • Borderlands 2 has The Sheriff of Lynchwood (Real name: Nisha), who isn't an actual law enforcement officer. She's simply Handsome Jack's girlfriend who was given control of the town as an anniversary gift and a villain with a taste for Western tropes and mass hangings.
  • Lucas Simms of Fallout 3 is the self-appointed sheriff of Megaton, and considered to be a bit of a Bunny-Ears Lawyer by its citizens because of the whole "cowboy getup".
    • From the first game, we have Sheriff Killian of Junktown.
    • Fallout 2 gives us Marcus of Broken Hills, Marion of Redding, and Dumont of the NCR.
    • In Fallout: New Vegas you can either appoint a former Cowboy Cop or reprogram a robot as the sheriff of Primm. That or have the NCR take the town under their wing.
  • Earl Whitehorse of Far Cry 5 is the sheriff of Hope County, Montana. He seems to genuinely have the citizens' best interests at heart, but he's unable to contend with the cult that's moved in and taken over.
  • Mizzurna Falls: Sheriff Morgan. He's described as having a severe personality, but has a strong sense of justice, and is someone you can rely on.
  • The Reality-On-The-Norm series. The lawkeeper of Reality-on-the-Norm is a sheriff aptly named, well, The Sheriff. His clothes make him look like someone straight from the Wild West, even though it's not clear which country Reality-on-the-Norm actually lies in.
  • Star Trek Online:
    • "Law" from the "Wasteland" arc is an elderly Romulan and the last of the Nimbus III Peacekeepers set up by the Federation, Klingons and Romulans after Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. He worked for over a century to maintain order on Nimbus but by the present day, with Nimbus dominated by the Orion Syndicate, has given up hope. The player helps him regain it and he joins your crew.
    • The official backstory for the Romulan player character's first officer Tovan Khev has him working as a security officer on the frontier mining colony Hfihar before coming to Virinat. He had a reputation for both honesty and fighting skill, which was why D'Vex recruited him to work security on Virinat.

    Webcomics 
  • Arthur in the Western arc of Arthur, King of Time and Space. He has a lot of deputies, since he basically deputizes anyone who's a Knight of the Round Table in the baseline arc. He eventually becomes mayor at the same time Contemporary!Arthur is elected President, and Lancelot becomes the new sheriff.
  • Sheriff Ned is a Badass Normal exchange law enforcement officer from Texas in the web-based Harry Potter Comics.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Buford Pusser, as fictionalized in Walking Tall (1973).
  • Bat Masterson
  • Wyatt Earp (Town Marshal variety, notable in the fact that his famous shoot out involved a conflict between the town marshals and the county sheriffs).
    • Even more noteworthy in that the large majority of his career was spent arresting criminals, rather than killing them. In fact, if the stories are to be believed, until the series of events that eventually led to the showdown at the OK Corral, Earp had never killed a criminal in his entire career.
      • His preferred method of dealing with miscreants was pistol-whipping.
      • Or pulling on their ear.
    • Earp actually never rose above Deputy Marshal in any place he served as lawman. In Tombstone, he wasn't even on the town payroll at the time of the famous Gunfight. His brother, Virgil, was acting City Marshal and temporarily deputized Wyatt and Doc Holliday. Wyatt did server as Under Sheriff, but several political issues, including the county splitting in half, cost him that job.
  • Pat Garrett, the man who shot Billy The Kid (and wrote an awful book about it).
  • Bill Tilghman - the last of the old Western sheriffs. Rode with Masterson and Earp, killed in the line of duty at age 70.
  • David Reichert (currently US congressman from Washington State, Reichert is best known for his pursuit and capture of the Green River Killer, and is still known in his local area simply as "The Sheriff")
  • Johnny Behan, county sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona (including the town of Tombstone) during the Gunfight at the OK Corral. He was a character in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Spectre of the Gun", which featured a recreation of the gunfight.
  • Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona. Makes his prisoners wear pink underwear, sleep in tents outdoors in the middle of summer (when temperatures routinely top 110F), and eat spoiled bologna sandwiches, among other things. Viewed as either a Cowboy Cop or a Corrupt Hick depending on how you feel about prisoner's rights.
    • Lending further weight to the latter characterization, Arpaio also has a well-documented history of using his deputies to harass and intimidate his political opponents and media critics.
    • His alleged mistreatment of racial minorities, particularly Latinos, has also been a subject of controversy. This has resulted in investigations by the federal government and has resulted in his office being forbidden to detain suspected illegal immigrants.
    • His birther allegations towards President Barack Obama have been widely criticized.
  • Bob Vogel of Volusia County, Florida. 60 Minutes profiles Vogel's so-called "drug enforcement program" in which Vogel's men would stop suspicious travelers on I-95 and confiscate any large amounts of cash they might have on the basis of their being "suspected drug dealers" under authority of the state's RICO statutes. These "suspected drug dealers" included a 90+ year old great-grandmother who hadn't trusted banks since the Great Depression and thus kept her money on her at all times, a car dealer on his way to a "cash-only" auto auction, the recent winner of a game show who had taken his winnings in cash so he could show his family what "a hundred thousand dollars looked like", and a woman on her way to buy supplies after a hurricane.
  • Grady Judd of Polk County, Florida. When he found out that a man in Colorado was selling a book titled The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure, he had an undercover detective buy a copy, then sent two officers over 1,800 miles to arrest the author for distribution of obscenity. Once, when asked why his men shot 110 rounds at one suspect, hitting him 68 times, Judd replied, "Because that's all the bullets we had."
    • The suspect in question was an armed cop killer who had shot a police officer six times, before shooting him twice in the back of the head killing the officer. And had just pointed the stolen officer's sidearm at the SWAT team.


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