Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What's the Difference Between a Sheriff's Department and a Police Department, Anyway?

Someone from the Sheriff's Department in Austin, MN, called today and left a message. I was kinda confused about why they would be calling me.

I called back, but he was on a medical call somewhere.

Then he called me back again a bit later.

It was a short conversation, once we finally spoke. I guess there was some deal with a car being noted somewhere under suspicious circumstances, and the license plate the deputy took down was the MN license for my Taurus.

But...the Taurus has been here in Seattle for years, and it's not even registered in MN any more, it's registered in WA.

So, maybe someone got ahold of the old plates. Or the deputy took down the plate number incorrectly. Who knows.

What a strange mid-day diversion.


snarlydwarf said...

In most places, Sheriff is for county, Police is for city. Around these-here parts, Eugene and Springfield both have police departments, but the "town" (unincorporated area, actuall) of Glenwood, which sits between the two does not... so they are served by Lane County Sheriff. (And this leads to all sorts of jurisdictional fun.)

now you now. :P

I am still trying to figure out the difference between Jail and Prison... aparrently (at least according to some random conversation I heard a couple years ago), there is a huge difference.

As in, "I haven't been to jail in ages"

"You were just there last month!"

"No, dude, that was prison not jail!"


Jonathan said...

Ha... I actually wondered the same thing as we were driving cross-country. So snarly, is that why sheriff's departments are so small?...

I think the distinction between jail and prison is non-federal vs. federal. Up in Canada, jail is a provincial jurisdiction and covers all sentences up to 2 years minus one day. Federal prison handles everything above that.

Alan said...

Yep, police are generally cities (and also State Police), and sheriffs are county.

Prison and jail -- it's not federal vs. non-federal in the US. You don't go to federal prison unless you comitted a federal crime. Generally, a jail is where you serve short-term sentences, and where they throw you when first arrested. You generally serve your time in prison.

The jail is down at the police station or sheriff's office. The police usually have offices in the same building. A prison is only inmates and officers who are taking care of the inmates. The police are not dispatched from there.

Anonymous said...

Actually the real difference is that the sheriff is an elected official.

Sheriff's specific authority and resposibilities tends to be different from state to state.

Jonathan said...

You know, that whole "jail in the police station" thing makes a lot of sense. I'm wondering if the federal vs. non-federal distinction for the two words is purely a French Quebec thing.

snarlydwarf said...

Could be... around here it seems to be Jail = County or City, short-term. Sometimes it is pretrial, sometimes it is just shortstay. (Sorta like where Paris Hilton stayed, which was a county jail -- that was postconviction) Prison is run by the state or feds and is for more longterm stays.

Either way, it fascinates me that two guys would argue about whether it is jail or prison they went to: it is a place where you are locked in a barred cell. Beyond that, really, what matters?

And where the heck is Kat?

Kathryn said...

Kat is tromping around the midwest. She'll be back on the west coast (and blogging again) in a few weeks!

About Jail vs Prison...my mom, the public defender, says Jail is for shorter terms (a year or less), and is much less structured, and you can do work release from Jail, but not from Prison. And maybe you can volunteer to do jobs to earn a shorter term in Jail, but in Prison, there's no volunteering about it. You do Laundry. Or Cooking. Or whatever it is, period. Maybe you earn a dollar a day for your work, or some such piddly sum. But it's not a choice.

That's what my mom says, anyhow. She knows more about it than me.

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