Nassau County Sheriff's Office

An Accredited Florida Law Enforcement Agency

Non-Emergency Lines: (904) 225-5174 | (904) 548-4009 | toll free (855) 725-2630

History of Law Enforcement

History of Law Enforcement

The first modern-day police force was formed in 1829 in London, England, when Parliament created the London Metropolitan Police, a 1,000 member Professional force. Prior to 1892, law enforcement in England and America had largely been in the hands of ordinary citizen volunteers, night watchmen, sheriffs, or constables. It was generally unorganized and informal in its application. Riots were commonplace and civil unrest occurred more often. From that need arose the law enforcement agency.

Sheriff BadgeThe first police superintendent in London’s police force was Sir Robert Peel, which is where the London’s police officers get the name “Bobbies”. The term cop comes from the Constable on Patrol.

The term sheriff also comes from England. It is derived from the Shire Reeve. “Shire” is what they called the counties in England. A “Reeve” was a ministerial officer of high rank for a local jurisdiction who executed process, kept the peace and enforced the law.

The First established law enforcement system in America is said to be New York City’s Sheriff’s Office in 1626, followed closely by Boston in 1631. In Colonial times, policing was provided by elected sheriffs and local militia.

There is some dispute over exactly when and where the first modern-day American agency was created. Some sources credit New York City in 1845, followed by Boston a few years later. Others say it was Boston in 1838 followed by New York in 1845.

Until the late 19th century, there were no qualifications required for law enforcement officers. Cincinnati was the first city to require qualifications for their police officers. The requirements were high moral character and foot speed. It was not until the early 20th century that reformers began advocating for training and education of police officers. They also aimed to remove the police from political forces.

The United States has more police departments than any other nation in the world. Virtually every community has its own police force, creating a great disparity in the quality of American police personnel and service.

There are approximately 19,000 police agencies in the U.S.  Most police departments (appx 90%) employ less than 50 sworn officers.

Florida History

Just prior to statehood, there were only two counties in Florida; Escambia and St. Johns. Escambia County covered all of the panhandle and St. Johns covered everything else. Two Sheriff’s were responsible for the entire state, so the legislature created law allowing the Sheriff’s to appoint deputies. There are currently 67 counties, each with an elected Sheriff.

Nassau County Sheriff History

NASSAU COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

Inception 1827

Nassau County Sheriffs

Sheriff

Served

# Years

Harman Holiman 1827-1828 1 Year
Lewis Bailey 1828-1842 14 Years
James Lord 1842-1844 2 Years
John Jones 1844-1845 1 Year
A. J. Braddock 1845-1863 18 Years
John Boothe 1864-1865 1 Year
J. M. Bennett 1865-1867 2 Years
I. E. Meddaugh 1874-1877 3 Years
Peter Cone 1877-1883 6 Years
J. A. Ellmann 1883-1889 6 Years
J. P. O’Neile 1889-1893 4 Years
W. F. Higginbotham 1893-1900 7 Years
A. J. Higginbotham 1900-1906 6 Years
R. P. Carleton 1906-1909 3 Years
A. J. Johnson 1909-1921 12 Years
J. M. Adams 1921-1925 4 Years
A. J. Higginbotham 1925-1941 16 Years
H. J. Youngblood 1941-1969 28 Years
H. S. McKendree 1969-1980 12 Years
R. W. Daugherty 1981-1985 4 Years
Lawrence E. “Laurie” Ellis 1985-1992 8 Years
W. R. “Ray” Geiger 1992-2004 12 Years
T. L. “Tommy” Seagraves, Jr. 2005-2012 8 Years
Bill Leeper 2013 –

Line of Duty Deaths in Nassau County

Date of Death

Deputy Joseph W. Robinson 5/17/1891
Deputy Everett E. Johns 12/6/1905
Deputy Jeremiah Mattox 3/13/1954
Chief Bailiff Lewis T. Hailey 9/15/1992