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Voters stay the course with Wayne County Sheriff's office

wayne county sheriff headquarters exteriors
Paulette Parker
Michigan Radio

Voters in the primary election yesterday opted to stay the course with regard to the Wayne County Sheriff's office.

The incumbent by appointment, Raphael Washington won the Democratic primary in nearly half of all primary votes. His opponents, former Detroit police officer Joan Merriweather pulled in 28% of ballots, and retired Wayne County Sheriff's Lieutenant Walter Epps got 24%. No Republican candidates vied to run in November, and with Detroit and its suburbs leaning Democratic, Washington is expected to continue leading the agency.

Washington was named Sheriff’s Office after his predecessor, Benny Napoleon, died of Covid in December 2020.

In a related vote, a millage renewal for a new jail complex won about 60% of votes. County officials first approved a $533 million plan for a 2,000-bed jail and juvenile detention facility, as well as a courthouse in 2018, after abandoning a partially built jail the previous year. The Criminal Justice Complex, located off of I-75 and Warren Ave., was slated to open this year, but that timeline has been delayed. Dan Gilbert’s Rock Ventures, which is building the new facility, reported that it was running about $40 million over budget in 2019, but would cover the unexpected costs.

The Sheriff’s Office currently oversees three separate jail facilities. One of them, having been in use for nearly a century, has been overseen by a consent order due to poor conditions for 50 years.

Beenish Ahmed is Michigan Public's Criminal Justice reporter. Since 2016, she has been a reporter for WNYC Public Radio in New York and also a freelance journalist. Her stories have appeared on NPR, as well as in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, VICE and The Daily Beast.
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