* Duties: The sheriff is in charge of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, with over 8,000 sworn deputies and about 4,000 non-sworn personnel. The department is the fourth-largest police agency in the country, with jurisdiction over 42 cities and unincorporated county areas with a combined population of more than 2.5 million.
* Major candidates: Five candidates are opposing Sheriff Sherman Block's bid for a fourth term, but none are politically well known. Three of the five--Gil Carrillo, Tab Rhodes and Sgt. John R. Stites II--are uniformed deputies in the department. One, Robert J. Irmas, is a reserve sheriff's captain and the fifth, Robert H. Lewis Jr., is a sergeant with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
* Issues: Block is running on his record under the slogan, "tough job, tough sheriff." His challengers claim the department is poorly administered and that the staff has poor morale. Block has been an exponent of reform, particularly in the areas of monitoring and limiting excess use of force. With the exception of Lewis, his opponents say the reforms are overly bureaucratic.
* History: The first Los Angeles County sheriff was elected in 1850, and there have been 25 sheriffs in all, 19 elected to office and six appointed by the Board of Supervisors. Block, who joined the department 38 years ago and worked his way up, is a registered Republican, but the office is nonpartisan. The sheriff had two successful bouts with cancer, and is beyond the usual retirement age. But he has repeatedly said he would serve out a new term in office.
* Age: 69
* Residence: San Fernando Valley
* Current position: Sheriff
* Education: Bachelor's degree in police science and administration at Cal State, Los Angeles; some graduate work at USC.
* Career highlights: Block was first elected sheriff in 1982. He also serves as emergency mutual aid coordinator for Los Angeles and Orange counties and chairman of the Attorney General's Commission on Narcotics.
* Age: 44
* Residence: Rowland Heights
* Current Position: Homicide Detective in the Sheriff's Department.
* Education: Associate Science degree, Rio Hondo College, working on Bachelor's at Cal State, Los Angeles.
* Career highlights: Carrillo has been with the department for 23 years, including 13 with the Homicide Bureau, where he was a lead investigator on the Nightstalker case. He was an original member of the Operation Safe Streets anti-gang unit, and has been a lecturer at the FBI Academy and elsewhere.
ROBERT J. IRMAS
* Age: 42
* Residence: Encino
* Current Position: Businessman and reserve Sheriff's captain.
* Education: Bachelor's degree at Pepperdine, Master's at Chapman College and Juris Doctor, Southwestern Law School.
* Career Highlights: During eight years with the Sheriff's Department, Irmas worked in the patrol and detective divisions. He was a deputy district attorney for two years. He is now in business and is administrator of a philanthropic fund.
ROBERT H. LEWIS, JR.
* Age: 37
* Residence: West Covina
* Occupation: Sergeant, Metropolitan Transportation Authority
* Education: Bachelor's degree expected in June from the Diamond Bar branch of the University of Phoenix in business management.
* Career Highlights: Lewis served in the Air Force military police for four years before joining the MTA as a police officer 12 years ago. He is a court-qualified narcotics expert, as well as an expert on pickpocketing. The LAPD has given him five letters of commendation for work on a pickpocket task force.
* Age: 26
* Residence: La Habra Heights
* Occupation: Deputy Sheriff
* Education: Bachelor's degree in criminal justice at Cal State, Los Angeles and graduate work in administration at the same university.
* Career Highlights: During his five years in the Sheriff's Department, Rhodes has worked mostly in the jails. He has also served as an instructor at the Sheriff's Academy.
JOHN R. STITES II
* Age: 40
* Residence: La Puente
* Current Position: Sergeant in the Sheriff's Department
* Education: Bachelor's degree in public administration and criminal justice, National University, San Diego.
* Career highlights: Stites served nine years in the U.S. Army before joining the Sheriff's Department in 1980. Currently a patrol sargeant, he has worked in the county jails and on investigations. He has received 31 written commendations for his service.