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Elk County Sheriff Jeffrey Krieg was the guest speaker at the St. Marys American Legion Post 103's annual Veterans Day Banquet on Saturday evening at Bavarian Hills in St. Marys. Krieg explained that he was asked to speak about the Sheriff's Office because many people are unsure of its actual purpose.
According to Krieg, the Sheriff's Office is the oldest law enforcement division in Pennsylvania and dates back to the founding of the Commonwealth.
"We were arresting people back in the 1700s, long before there were state police and municipal police and everything else," Krieg said.
He noted that in 1763, a group of Presbyterian Scots-Irish from Paxton massacred an entire group of peaceful Conestoga Indians and an arrest warrant was issued for the "Paxton Boys" leader, Lazarus Stewart.
"During the attempted arrest in North Umberland County at Fort Durkee, the first law enforcement officer in Pennsylvania was killed. It was Nathan Ogden, a deputy sheriff. [The year] was 1771," Krieg said.
Krieg explained that the Elk County's Sheriff's Office was formed in 1843 and through the years, a number of former police officers have held the position of sheriff, many from the St. Marys area. He added that the longest-serving sheriff in Elk County history was Raymond Krasinski, who served for 28 years from 1964 to 1992.
"Politically, my title is supposed to be the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in the county. But I will tell you, practically speaking, that's just a title. We will cooperate and assist any law enforcement agency at any time, but we will not step on their toes. We won't take over the investigation, etc.," said Krieg, who has held the position of sheriff since 2008.
The Sheriff's Office is mainly responsible for serving as the executive arm of the judge of the Court of Common Pleas. Members of the department serve papers for civil complaints; transport prisoners; serve Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders, bench warrants and subpoenas for the district attorney's office; and are responsible for security at the Elk County Courthouse and Annex.
The Sheriff's Office also issues gun permits and offers handgun training for women, as well as various programs geared toward area youth.
"We are sworn to uphold the constitution of Pennsylvania. That's where we primarily get our powers, along with English common law, which was fine until about five years ago when two sheriff's deputies in another county went to serve a civil paper on someone and discovered a meth lab. [The sheriff's deputies] subsequently arrested this individual and [the individual] appealed and it got to the State Supreme Court and they pretty much said, 'Well we know [the sheriff's office has] been in law enforcement for hundreds of years, but maybe the legislature better give you your arrest powers back.' We never understood that because we always had them, but apparently now we have to get them back through legislation," Krieg said.
For more on this story, see the Nov. 15 edition of The Daily Press.