NSA's roots can be traced back to October 1888, when a group of sheriffs in Minnesota and surrounding states formed an organization, which they named the Inter-State Sheriffs' Association. The purpose of this association was to give opportunity for a wider, mutual acquaintance, to exchange ideas for more efficient service, and to assist one another in the apprehension of criminals.
Over the years the name was changed several times. It is assumed that as laws changed and law enforcement grew and expanded along with the country, the organization felt compelled to change its name to fit its membership and the times. When law enforcement officials in other states and Canada expressed interest in taking part in the Inter-State Sheriffs' Association, the group subsequently changed its name to the International Sheriffs' and Police Association. In 1908 the organization was briefly known as the National Sheriffs' Association before its name was amended as the International Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association and then later to the International Sheriffs and Police Association. The organization disbanded in 1938.
The Articles of Incorporation of the new National Sheriffs' Association were filed with the Secretary of State of the state of Ohio on September 26, 1940. Sheriff Walter O'Neil of Akron, Ohio was NSA's first president and held the first annual meeting in 1941 in St. Louis, Missouri. At this meeting a constitution was adopted and the organization's goals, policies, and objectives were agreed upon. NSA began publishing its periodical, The National Sheriff magazine, in February of the same year. NSA's first executive secretary (executive director) was Charles J. Hahn. It is believed that Hahn and the officials of the Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association of Ohio set about to form a national association for sheriffs.
The National Sheriffs' Association today is headquarted in Alexandria, VA and is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising the level of professionalism among sheriffs, their deputies, and others in the field of criminal justice and public safety so that they may perform their jobs in the best possible manner and better serve the people of their cities, counties or jurisdictions.