The Henrico County Sheriff’s Office is one
of the oldest sheriff’s offices in the United States.
The “Old Jail” at 22nd and Main in Richmond was built in 1880. It remained in use for 100 years until Jail West was built at the Western Government Complex in 1980.
The sheriff has its origins in Anglo-Saxon England of 700-900 A.D. When England began exploration and settlement of the Virginia colony they brought the sheriff style of keeping the peace with them. The “shire-reeve” or sheriff as we know today, was the principal military and judicial officer of the “shire” or county and could call upon all able-bodied men for help. He held this power through “posse comitatus” or power of the county. An example of this power is the old west sheriff deputizing a posse to track down lawbreakers. It is interesting to note that in the northeastern United States the constable system was used and the southern states used the sheriff system. When the nation began stretching west, both the constable and sheriff were used as police. The citizens often made these offices elective to prevent the abuse of power. From these humble beginnings the modern sheriff’s office’s and police departments were born.
THE HENRICO SHERIFF’S OFFICE IS BORN
In 1611 Sir Thomas Dale sailed upriver from Jamestown and established the second permanent English settlement in the New World, “Henricus” (the city of Henrico), which was named after Henry, Prince of Wales, the oldest son of King James I of England. He was in charge of the militia and also was the first law enforcement officer in Henrico, making him Henrico’s first Sheriff. In 1634 Henrico became one of the eight original “shires” (counties) in Virginia. The Henrico County Sheriff’s Office was born.
In 1821 land was donated to the county at the site that would become 22nd & Main Streets for the construction of a courthouse and jail. During the 1880’s this building was constructed and housed the Sheriff’s Office and Jail until 1980. Over crowding and the need for more advanced technology brought about the construction of Jail West at the Henrico County Government Complex on Parham Road in 1980.
In 1996, Henrico’s Sheriff’s Office opened Jail East in New Kent County. This progressive, new generation jail is unique as the first campus style, direct supervision correctional facility in the Commonwealth and the only one of its kind in the nation. The Henrico County Sheriff’s Office has a long tradition of innovation and a commitment to progress which continues today.
ROLE OF THE SHERIFF IN PRESENT DAY HENRICO
The sheriff was the traditional head of law enforcement in Henrico County until 1938 when the Board of Supervisors placed control of the Division of Police under the County Manager. The Sheriff’s Office now shares concurrent jurisdiction with the Police Department but generally defers matters of law enforcement to them. The Sheriff of Henrico County is a constitutional officer and is elected by the citizens to serve 4-year terms. There are no term limits. The current role of the Sheriff in Henrico County is the safety and security of the jails and courthouses, and the service of civil process. The Sheriff of Henrico County presides over one of the largest, most densely populated counties in Virginia and safely manages a jail population of over 1200 inmates and serves more than 100,000 court papers a year.