Jerry Clayton wins Democratic primary election for Washtenaw County Sheriff

Wednesday, August 5, 2020 - 9:14am

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Design by Jack Silberman

Jerry Clayton will now be serving his fourth term as Washtenaw County sheriff after winning the democratic primary election over challenger Ken Magee with 75.59 percent of the votes.

During the 2016 elections, Clayton stated he wanted to to sustain and expand current mental health-related programs and fight the opioid crisis in Washtenaw County by offering naloxone, a medication that is used during opioid overdoses. In October 2019, Clayton also declared his support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

This year, Clayton is still focusing on mental and drug abuse issues. He told MLive he wants to continue his public service by seeing through the implementation of mental health services funded by a 2017 millage. Clayton also hopes to help those suffering from mental health and drug abuse problems avoid the criminal justice system if they agree to proper treatment. 

The election follows a multitude of protests fighting against police brutality ignited throughout Washtenaw County in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. When a video of a Washtenaw County sheriff’s deputy punching Ypsilanti resident Sha’Teina Grady El, leaked it sparked local protests. According to Michigan Radio, the deputy was placed on administrative leave from the Sheriff’s office.

The #8CantWait campaign is a movement to enact change in police departments to ensure community safety and reduce harm. Clayton states on his website he has worked to implement all the recommended safety measures even before the campaign occurred.

In an interview with The Daily, Clayton said he was concerned about his staff if they did not win the election, but is relieved he did.

“I think my biggest anxiety was if we don’t win, a lot changes in the office — people might not have jobs.” Clayton said. “I had faith that we’ve been in office (for) 12 years. We’ve always been pretty clear with the folks with what our intent is and how we try to add value. My belief is the election will be a referendum of the last 12 years and what we say we want to do for the next four.”

Clayton noted how the sheriff’s office will continue to evolve through the next few years. He said he is excited to make more progress with criminal justice reform and programs to position people reentering the community from jail for success. Clayton also hopes to improve the sheriff’s office by hiring a director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

I’m excited about hiring a director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the sheriff’s office to help us get better at what we’re trying to do in terms of equity in the office, which we hope will be reflected more of the work we do back into the community,” Clayton said. “There’s a lot of work to do, and I’m excited about the business of doing our business.”

Summer Managing News Editor Francesca Duong can be reached at fduong@umich.edu