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Locally Elected Sheriffs and Money Compensation: A Quantitative Analysis of Organizational and Environmental Contingency Explanations

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Review Volume: 33 Issue: 1 Dated: March 2008 Pages: 5-28
Ronald Helms
Date Published
March 2008
24 pages
This study assessed diverse explanations for pay allocated to local sheriffs.
Results indicate that external environments contain the objects that must be dealt with by local law enforcement, and asserts that increased complexity will affect the crimes and incidents of criminal activity as well as the difficulty defining what is required to maintain public order. The elected sheriff is accountable to the local citizenry and must be attentive to the political climate. Difficult sociopolitical environments are conceptualized as a key source of heightened political risk to the elected sheriff. One implication of this conceptualization is inherent political risks associated with duties of key local political offices, local political competition may be influenced to pay considerations as local elective votes. Along with political recognition associated with electoral success, pay considerations may be an important mechanism for attracting talented executives to run for public office and retaining them for subsequent terms. A strong tax base helps local sheriffs as does income inequality associated with the presence of high income earners, but local conservative political support is associated with reduced wage allocations. High crime rates and local unemployment are closely associated with expanded money wages, but pay is limited in counties with a large impoverished population. No empirical results are consistent with an environmental contingency model. One implication from this analysis is that county sheriffs are compensated at rates that reflect patterns of uncertainty in the organization's localized external environment. This study highlights the importance of the contextual approach and develops diverse explanations linking wage allocations with a local sheriff with law enforcement contingencies both within the agency and in the local external environment in which the agency operates. Tables, notes, references


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