Mission Statement

To provide public safety services to our community with a professional, courteous, well trained staff who consistently does the right thing at the right time for the right reason.

Differences between offices and departments

What are the differences between sheriff’s offices and other law enforcement agencies?
To understand the differences, one must look at the definitions of each term – department and office. The sheriff holds an office, while other top administrators are appointed to administer departments.

  • Department: One of the major divisions of a branch of government. Generally, a branch or division of government subordinate to that government’s administration.
  • Office: A right and correspondent duty to exercise a public trust. A public charge or employment. Elected public office.

In Oregon, the office of sheriff is a constitutional office having exclusive powers, authority and responsibility. The sheriff is not appointed by a government body, but is elected by the people and is responsible to the people and not subordinate to county administrators or other elected officials. The sheriff is the only law enforcement position that is selected directly by and accountable to the citizens.


The office of sheriff is the oldest known law enforcement agency within the Common Law System. Sheriffs of England can trace 1,000 years of history. Like many functions of government, the office of sheriff was formed because of the need to maintain order in a developing society and to provide protection for the community. Through the years, particularly in the West, we have had many legendary sheriffs, such as Bart Masterson, Wild Bill Hickock and Pat Garrett. In 1841, the killing of a wealthy pioneer brought about William Johnson being chosen as Oregon’s first sheriff. In May 1842, Oregon took the first steps toward a formalized government and Joseph Meek was named Sheriff of Oregon. In 1845, the provisional government approved the election of sheriffs in each of Oregon’s five counties. Malheur County named Henry C. Murray as its first sheriff in 1887. 


 Brian Wolfe became Malheur County’s 16th sheriff in June 2011. Previously he worked as a Nyssa Police Department School Resource Officer, Patrolman and Detective for the Ontario Police Department and was the Undersheriff for the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office. Community involvement is important to Sheriff Wolfe. He serves on numerous boards and committees and tries to be active with the local Chambers of Commerce in Vale, Ontario and Nyssa as well as in the outlying areas of Malheur County. He has a great respect for Malheur County and the citizens that make it such a great place to live and serve.

Sheriffs and their deputies provide public safety service by mandate or tradition. Today’s sheriffs are responsible for protecting human life, the public peace and order, the protection of the rights of individuals and their property, the prevention of crime and the enforcement of laws without discrimination. Over the years, the law enforcement profession has become very sophisticated as citizens have come to rely on us for more and more intervention and protection. The types of crimes and the criminals have become more complex and the system has become overburdened attempting to meet the need in traditional ways.
Today, more than ever, sheriffs need the support of citizens to maintain the livability and safety of our communities.
*Reprinted from Oregon Sheriff