Raphael Washington named Wayne County sheriff

The deputy chief of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office was named Friday to head the law enforcement agency for the next two years.

Raphael Washington was selected to replace longtime Sheriff Benny Napoleon, who died last month from COVID-19. 

Napoleon died Dec. 17 after being hospitalized for three weeks with the highly contagious and deadly novel coronavirus. Napoleon was overwhelmingly reelected in November, with 98% of the vote, for a term that was to begin Jan. 1.

Washington planned to hold a news conference Friday, Wayne County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Pageant Atterberry said.

Michigan election law mandates that a vacancy for sheriff must be filled within 15 days after the beginning of the term for which he or she was elected. Michigan law empowers the county clerk, prosecutor and chief probate judge to appoint a successor.

Raphael Washington was appointed Wayne County sheriff on Friday.

In this case, the selection of the new sheriff was done virtually via Zoom interviews of candidates by Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett, Prosecutor Kym Worthy and Chief Probate Judge Freddie Burton.

Undersheriff Daniel Pfanees, who has served as sheriff in the interim since Napoleon's death, and Robert Dunlap, chief of Wayne County jails & court operations, were among the candidates for the position. The other candidates were Charles Corley II, Assad Turfe, William Riley III, Walter Epps, Lynette Cain, Calandra Tyson, Elton Oliver, Jason Nesler, Tyrone Carter, T.P. Nykoriak and Kevin Williams.

Garrett and Worthy, who said she sought to appoint someone who is committed to police reform while being "empathetic and strong," voted in support of Washington's appointment. Burton did not, and declined to say who he supported for the job.

"I have high regard for Deputy Chief Washington as I do for Undersheriff Pfannes, Chief of Jails Dunlap and Chief of Staff Assad," Burton said before the vote. "I don't believe we can go wrong but I believe I must decline to support the appointment."

Worthy said she wants to change the process and plans to file an objection to the state statute. She plans to argue more time should be given to name a replacement. She added the current process "was not human (and) not the way to run a railroad," referring to the 30-minute interview each candidate received.

 The panel earlier this month asked for more time to consider candidates but Judge Timothy Kenny of Wayne County Circuit Court ruled against their request.

The panel completed interviews, which were conducted publicly Thursday and Friday, on Friday morning. 

Fourteen candidates applied for the job that has a salary of $128,768 and responsibility for a department with 1,063 deputies, jail staff and civilian personnel. One candidate did not show up for the 30-minute interview.

The selection process was viewed via Zoom by 222 people who included Wayne County residents, civic, community and religious leaders.

Washington's selection won praise from some local labor political and leaders, including County Executive Warren Evans, himself a former sheriff.

"It is essential that Wayne County’s leaders continue working together as a team to safeguard the health, safety and economic stability of our community," Evans said in a statement. I know Raphael understands this and is prepared to meet these challenges


UAW President Rory Gamble was complimentary as well.

"Wayne County made a strong decision today to elevate Chief Deputy Ray Washington to fill Benny Napoleon's unexpired term as Wayne County Sheriff," Gamble said in a statement Friday. "Benny understood that policing required diligence, professionalism and compassion as we navigate some very serious economic and societal pressures. Ray will bring continuity, integrity and an understanding of community public service to this crucial role.”

Wayne County Commission Chair Alisha Bell also congratulated Washington.

"I am confident Sheriff Washington will serve with honesty and integrity in upholding the office to the highest of standards, all the while having the best interests of Wayne County residents,” she said.

 "I have the utmost confidence that Ray Washington will serve the citizens of Wayne County with honor, dignity, and integrity and continue the legacy of our beloved Sheriff Benny Napoleon," Commissioner Martha G. Scott said.