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More than 1200 years ago, the country we now call England was inhabited by small groups of Anglo Saxons who lived in rural communities. Each group of a hundred families elected its own chief.

The Anglo-Saxon word for chief was gerefa, which was later shortened to reeve. A new unit of government, the shire, was formed when groups of hundreds banded together. The shire was the forerunner of the modern county. Just as each hundred was led by a reeve (chief), each shire had a reeve as well. To distinguish the leader of a mere hundred, the more powerful official became known as a shirereeve. The word shire-reeve eventually became the modern English word Sheriff. The Sheriff, in early England, and metaphorically in present day America – is the keeper, or chief, of the county.

The Sheriff, under King Alfred the Great, who assumed the throne in the year 871, was responsible for maintaining law and order within his own county. However, it remained the duty of every citizen to assist the Sheriff in keeping the peace. If a criminal or escaped suspect was at large, it was the Sheriff’s responsibility to give the alarm the hue and cry, as it was called. Any member of the community who heard the hue and cry was then legally responsible for helping to bring the criminal to justice. This principle of direct citizen participation survives today in the procedure known as posse comitatus.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, American sheriffs were assigned a broad range of responsibilities by colonial and state legislatures. Some of their responsibilities, such as law enforcement and tax collection were carried over from the familiar rule of the English sheriff. Other responsibilities such as overseeing jails and workhouses were new. Clearly, the Sheriff is the only viable officer remaining of the ancient offices, and his contemporary responsibility as conservator of the peace has been influenced greatly by modern society.

Florida sheriffs have been constitutional officers since 1865. The term of Office of the Sheriff was two years until 1868, and since then has been four years. The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office was established on April 25, 1913 when the area formally divided and separated from Orange County following a vote of the Florida Legislature. Since that time, the following Sheriffs have served Seminole County.

Sheriff Dennis M. Lemma

Sheriff Donald F. Eslinger
1991- 2017

Sheriff John E. Polk
1968- 1990

Sheriff Peter Milliot

Sheriff J. Luther Hobby
1956- 1967

Sheriff Denver Cordell
1955- 1956

Sheriff J. Luther Hobby
1952- 1955

Sheriff Percy A. Mero
1948- 1952

Sheriff Charles Hand

Sheriff James McClelland
1928- 1936

Sheriff Charles Hand
1920- 1928

Sheriff E.E. Brady

Sheriff Charles Hand

The Sheriff is solely responsible to the Governor for the execution of all state laws within his respective county and is the guardian of public peace, safety and security. He enforces the criminal laws, attends to the courts, and preserves order. He serves processes by which people are brought into court and is the keeper of all persons imprisoned in the county jail. He performs other duties as prescribed by the legislature. He maintains law and order and must see that due process of law, as guaranteed by the Constitution, is complied with before any person is deprived of life, liberty, or property.

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Seminole County Sheriff's Office
100 Eslinger Way
Sanford, Florida 32773
Phone: (407) 665-6650