The Sheriff has three primary duties: keep the peace (e.g., make arrests, respond to calls); attend the courts (e.g., superior court bailiffs); and operate the county jail. All 58 counties in California have a Sheriff’s Department and 41 of those counties also provide for the Sheriff to assume the duties of the Coroner. The Sheriff is a constitutionally elected official. The Coroner, in those counties where the Sheriff doesn’t assume both roles, is responsible for inquiring into and determining the circumstance, manner, and cause of all violent, sudden, or unusual deaths. Some counties have independently elected Coroners and others have appointed Coroners, or Medical Examiners who perform the duties of the Coroner. The Sheriff may also provide court services. Some counties, however, have retained the office of Marshal. The Marshal may either be elected or appointed by either the Board of Supervisors or the superior court. The Marshal attends the court in those counties where the responsibility is shared with the Sheriff or has been relinquished by the Sheriff.
The Sheriff’s Department typically has six functional operations:
Patrol — Besides patrol cars, may include boat or air patrol; answer calls for service; conduct investigations; detect and prevent crimes; and make arrests.
Detention — Operation of the jail and work camps; booking and release of inmates.
Civil — Receive and serve civil papers, such as summons, complaints, subpoenas, and orders of the court.
Court Services — Provide inmate transportation and bailiff duties in the court; provide courthouse security.
Records — Maintain records, warrants, and criminal history information.
Coroner — See full description below.
The Coroner’s Office typically has three functional operations:
Medical — Conduct autopsies to determine cause of death in those cases which fall within its jurisdiction; transport and remove bodies; verify cause of death and sign death certificates; appear at all unattended deaths unless the deceased has been seen by a physician within a specified period of time.
Administrative — Maintain all records; respond to inquiries by law enforcement agencies, doctors, and others with potential cases; provide proper custody and security of valuables; arrange sale of unclaimed property (which may also be done by the public guardian-public administrator); locate families when necessary.
Investigative — Conduct investigations to determine causes of death and/or to establish identity of deceased; conduct inquests.
The Marshal’s Office provides courts services which include inmate transportation, bailiff duties in the court, and courthouse security.