History of the Sheriff's Department

In England, the King appointed the Sheriff. He was known as the "King's man." In Maryland, the first Sheriff (1634) was the direct representative of the Lord Proprietor. His duties were to collect taxes, to maintain law and order, and to serve as Clerk of the Court. John Norwood, the first Sheriff of Anne Arundel County (1650), was paid in pounds of tobacco. He received ten pounds for serving any Writ, five for taking a bond, ten for imprisoning or releasing, twenty per day for tending a prisoner and ten for collecting public fees. Through the years, the Sheriff's responsibility and term of office have changed. From 1661 to 1669 the Sheriff had the additional duty of coroner. In 1698, he received additional salary for delivering public letters within the county. Then in 1776, the Maryland Constitution made the office elective.

Their terms changed from one year appointments to three year elected terms, then to two year terms, and finally four year terms in 1926. Today each of the counties of Maryland elect sheriffs. Their duties include enforcing the law, providing security for the courtrooms and operating the county jails. This ancient office is now accountable to the public but still has the responsibilities of protecting life and property.

Anne Arundel County's First Sheriff, John Norwood came to Maryland from Virginia in 1649 with three hundred religious "Independents". They settled near the Severn River in what is now Annapolis. Lord Baltimore appointed William Stone as Governor and Edward Lloyd as Commander of Anne Arundel County. Lloyd had the authority to appoint the sheriff and other offices in the county. Although state law called for yearly selection of sheriff, the same person was often re-appointed as was John Norwood who served from 1650 to 1662. In 1650, John Norwood received a warrant for 200 acres on the south side of the Severn River. He later purchased property on the Bay in Herring Creek Hundred (south county). In 1661, he was commissioned Captain in the State Militia. Norwood had command of all the forces from the head of the Severn on the north side to the south side of the Patapsco. In 1663, he was made a justice of the peace.

Norwood died by 1664. There was some financial risk in holding the office of Sheriff. He collected fees and fines in pounds of tobacco and had to be wealthy enough to pay the fines for others up front. If the crops were successfully harvested of course, he expected to be repaid with interest. The sheriff took an oath similar to that in England. He promised to treat the rich and the poor "right" and serve lawfully and faithfully. He had many duties. As a court official he was responsible for organizing a smoothly run court. He impaneled the juries and was then responsible for carrying out judgments and sentences including arresting, taking into custody or whipping criminals, serving summons and executions, collecting fees, giving warnings, and building prisons, stocks and pillories. He would also collect fines, give rewards, and serve writs.