In the pilot episode of Sleepy Hollow, Abbie is identified as a lieutenant in the Westchester County PD, working under Sheriff August Corbin. Later, after Corbin's death, she introduces herself to Captain Frank Irving, who appears to be in command of the precinct that includes Sleepy Hollow. Irving does not seem immediately familiar with her until she identifies herself as Corbin's "partner". Lieutenant Mills subsequently begins taking orders directly from Irving.

I'm confused as to how the chain of command in that police department works. Sheriff is the highest-ranking official in a police department, usually an elected official. Lieutenant is fairly near the bottom, but still high enough that she should normally be a supervisory position, with one or more sergeant beneath her.

The fact that both the Sheriff and one of his Lieutenants still went on patrols, and did so together, implies that the police department must be tiny, but the Westchester County PD has dozens of officers. Even more strange, Corbin (as sheriff) would be responsible for all precincts in the county, making him Irving's boss, so the idea that Irving would not know how own boss's "partner" is also unlikely. Either Lieutenant Mills worked in Irving's precinct, in which case he obviously should know her, or she works in another precinct, in which case he isn't her superior and wouldn't routinely take his orders.

So where exactly are Lieutenant Mills, Captain Irving, and Sheriff Corbin supposed to fit into a chain of command?

For reference, the department on the show is clearly not drawing on real-life for its model. The real Westchester County Police Department has no sheriff. That position is held by the head of the county-wide Westchester County Department of Public Safety, while the Westchester County Police Department only covers those areas not part of another precinct. In particular, Sleepy Hollow has it's own PD. The highest ranking official in a single precinct is the police commissioner (whom we don't see).

  • I have been wondering the same thing. I was thinking the Sheriff was county police while Irving was local police ... Definitely not sure here though. Oct 22, 2013 at 21:53
  • that would be typical but the impression the show gives is almost exactly the opposite (e.g. the "small town sheriff" vs. and "big city police captain" somehow in the same jurisdiction)
    – KutuluMike
    Oct 22, 2013 at 23:54

3 Answers 3


I did some googling to get to the bottom of this and almost immediately came upon this thread, where a few people had posted the exact same grievances. Interestingly though, about half way down the page someone pointed out that the show had got everything just fine:

There is nothing wrong with their police structure. Here are examples. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suffolk_County,_New_York_Sheriff's_Office#Rank_structure http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles_County_Sheriff's_Department#Rank_and_insignia

Orlando Jones's character is probably in charge of all the detectives in the area. Clancy Brown may have been an undersheriff or the Sheriff of the county.

The show takes place in Sleepy Hollow, New York. This means they'd be members of the fictional Westchester County Sheriff's Department because the real Westchester County has a Department of Public Safety lead by a Sheriff but is not actually called a Sheriff's department.

To expand on the first link that user posted, this is the current structure of Suffolk Count's Sheriff's Office, for example:

Sheriff Vincent F. DeMarco
Undersheriff John P. Meyerricks
Undersheriff Joseph T. Caracappa
Chief Deputy Sheriff/Chief of Staff/Warden
Deputy Warden
Captain/Investigator Captain
Lieutenant/Investigator Lieutenant
Sergeant/Investigator Sergeant
Deputy Sheriff/Correction Officer
Deputy Sheriff Investigator/Correction Officer Investigator

So I'm guessing that as to your question about where people fit into the chain of command - it's something similar to this structure.

  • this looks reasonable as far as how the police command structure goes but it still doesn't explain how a Captain somehow got put in charge of the precinct after the Sheriff many levels above him died -- where are the deputy/undersheriffs? But close enough :)
    – KutuluMike
    Mar 12, 2014 at 12:13
  • Rapid promotion my friend :) Rapid promotion! Mar 12, 2014 at 12:24
  • @KutuluMike why accept but not upvote O.o
    – Ankit Sharma
    May 21, 2019 at 10:14
  • an accept is three upvotes.
    – KutuluMike
    May 21, 2019 at 16:15

The Westchester Department of Public Safety is run by a Commissioner who is also the County Sheriff. Westchester County has both a police and a sheriffs department, both of which are commanded by the same person. Sleepy Hollow does have it's own police department but calls for backup with emergencies and assistance with large events from both the County police and sheriffs


The answer is it's basically your typical TV/movie lack of detail. The sheriff's department and a police department are separate entities with different jurisdictions that often overlap. The sheriff's department will be the law enforcement agency in charge of each county. Each sheriff's department is independent of each other but operate under the laws of their state. So a police department is the law enforcement agency in charge of a city or town, that city or town still resides in a particular county. Which means the police jurisdiction ends at city limits but the sheriff's departments jurisdiction includes the entire county, so they generally patrol all areas in the county that are outside of any particular city or towns police jurisdiction but their jurisdiction also includes that of a city or town. In some states the sheriff's department traditionally patrols only areas outside city limits except when needed while in others the sheriff's department patrols both outside and inside city limits. This is usually common in very large cities where the city police aren't capable of handling the load themselves.

It's pretty common for TV and movies to incorrectly portray the structure of law enforcement. Why? I don't know. It's not that hard in this digital age to quickly research such things but I suppose such things don't rank very high on importance. It always stands out as a glaring mistake because I'm a former police officer but apparently others notice it also.

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