Michigan Primary Election 2022 Candidate Guide: Wayne County Sheriff

Get to know the candidates running for Wayne County Sheriff in the August primary.

Michigan Primary Election Candidate Guide 2022

Editor’s note: WDET distributed surveys to some local, county and congressional candidates in key races on the August primary ballot to gain a deeper understanding of what’s motivating them to run. Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.


Walter Epps

Candidate guide Walter Epps
Courtesy of Walter Epps

Age: 53

Current job: Audit Supervisory, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, City of Detroit; Supply Officer, U.S. Navy Reserve

Education: Bachelor of Science – Accounting, Wayne State University; Master of Business Administration, DeVry University

Tell us about yourself in 200 words or less: I was born and raised in the City of Detroit where I was educated in the Detroit Public School system. I joined the United States Navy after my first year of college.  I have served a total of 28-plus years of active and reserve time. Currently, I am an officer with the U.S. Navy Reserve at the rank of Lieutenant Commander and a financial professional in the Navy. I am currently attending the U.S. Naval War College where I am honored to have been selected to attend. I started my career with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department as a Deputy and worked my way up the ranks to Executive Lieutenant where I either worked and/or lead many of the units of the department. Before retiring, I was responsible for maintaining various budgets, grants, and many fiscal responsibilities of the various units. I have led many large-scale initiatives consisting of various law enforcement agencies and their participation at all levels of government. I have attended the FBI National Academy, and I hold a secret clearance with the U.S. Navy. Currently, I manage the Income Tax and Compliance division with the City of Detroit.  I am also a certified Project Management Professional.

Why are you running for sheriff? I am running for Sheriff because I am the most qualified candidate with experience working and leading the various departments by working my way up the ranks, which includes managing budgets. I have had a very noteworthy and successful career of accomplishments with the Sheriff’s Department. I also believe I have the best plan for the department which is to bring services to our jails that will help and assist the detained population such as mental health, drug and alcohol abuse issues, and unemployment, amongst other things. When these services are provided while men and women are detained, and continue once these individuals are released from custody, we can reduce crime in our communities.I also plan to support our law enforcement partners from our 43 Wayne County communities by having deputies once again patrolling these communities. Once my plan is implemented, I believe we can reduce crime and make our communities safer.

What are the top 3 priority issues that Wayne County faces and what actions would you, as sheriff, take regarding each of them?

1) First and foremost, the Sheriff’s Department is critically understaffed with deputies. This causes life and death situations daily for our staff and the men and women detained within the facilities. To fill these “vacant budgeted positions,” the Sheriff must first appeal to potential law enforcement applicants. It is a priority to ensure that our communities trust our law enforcement officials, when this happens, I believe that we can encourage men and women to apply to fill these vacant positions.

2) Because police agencies within our 43 communities are also understaffed, there is a dire need of law enforcement assistance. My plan is to work with our partners in law enforcement to ensure we are aligned with the citizens of our communities and then on recruiting efforts. In doing so, I plan to return deputies on patrol in these communities in an effort to support our communities to reduce crime and promote safety.

3) Earlier I mentioned bringing services to our jails. I believe that by working with government and private organizations that have the resources to provide services to detained individuals, we can help people while they are detained and immediately upon their release. For example, the veteran’s administration can provide services for mental health, substance abuse issues, unemployed/underemployment, homelessness, and education, etc. After discussions with the Veterans Administration, I have learned that they are willing to provide these services while men and women are detained and after release. I have met with various organizations that offer similar resources and services. At some point, I would also like to implement a prisoner re-entry program in Wayne County by partnering with the Department of Corrections and offering these services and resources to men and women that are released from the Department of Corrections and returning to our communities.

Joan Merriewether

Candidate guide Joan Merriewether
Courtesy of Joan Merriewether

Age: 62

Current job: Retired

Education: 3 years Oakland Community College, 5 Month Bijan Air, 1 year Art Institute of Novi

Tell us about yourself in 200 words or less: I attended Oakland Community College majoring in Emergency Medical Technology after graduating Immaculate High School. I joined the Michigan Air National Guard soon after and returned to Oakland Community College majoring in Aviation Technology. I joined the Detroit Police Department and patrol the streets at the Tenth Precinct. While I worked the department, I received FAA license for single engine aircraft. I was selected to develop the Community Policing Program along with two other officers. Years later I was transferred to the Aviation Unit by Chief Benny Napoleon. That transfer made me the first female helicopter pilot for the department. I also became the first African American helicopter pilot in law enforcement for the entire country. I retired from Detroit Police and immediately joined the Wayne County Sheriff Department. I worked two out of three jails and the courts. I was promoted to the position of sergeant and worked Division One until my retirement.

Why are you running for sheriff? I am running for sheriff to give the officers, inmates and the community better services that they all deserve.

What are the top 3 priority issues that Wayne County faces and what actions would you, as sheriff, take regarding each of them?

1) Public safety: I plan to conduct a massive hiring to place officers on the streets to assist Wayne County residents when needed. I plan to develop a community policing program for the entire Wayne Country. With the community and police working together we will be able to take some of the illegal guns off the streets.

2) Officer safety: I plan to have officers properly trained and continuously train so they may handle most situations. The officers also need the proper equipment necessary to perform their duties. We will work on the morality of the officers so they will want to and enjoy working for Wayne County.

3) Accountability: We will hold officers accountable for their actions. We will hold all employees of Wayne County accountable for actions taken good and bad. We will work on holding the community accountable for the actions they take. Let’s also work with the court systems.

Raphael Washington 

Candidate guide Raphael Washington
Courtesy of Raphael Washington

Age: 61

Current job: Wayne County Sheriff

Education: Graduate of Detroit Public Schools. Cleary University, Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice Management. Graduate of Eastern Michigan University’s School of Police Staff and Command and the National FBI Academy Session 248. Sheriff Washington has also earned an Executive Certificate at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School in State and Local Government.

Tell us about yourself in 200 words or less: I believe law enforcement leaders must be discerning in their decision-making, yet compassionate when meting out decisions that affect personnel, the inmate population and the public. My background in law enforcement is wide-ranging; including jails and court operation supervision, inmate population management, policy development, compliance and organizational functions designed to enhance operational efficiency. Prior to joining the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, I spent my career with the Detroit Police Department where after graduating from the academy in 1985, I served as Patrol Officer, Investigative Officer (Narcotics, Violent Crimes, Traffic Enforcement and Gang Squad), Sergeant, Lieutenant and finally, Inspector of Traffic Enforcement. Over that time, I’ve collaborated with officers at every rank in various agencies at the local, state and federal level.

Why are you running for sheriff? When tragedy struck and we lost Benny Napoleon to COVID, I had to step up and raise my hand to be considered and was ultimately chosen by a panel that included the courts, clerk and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. I did so because the job he began and the service he inspired wasn’t finished.

  1. The job of creating a new jail facility complete with new programs to help those in our care leave better than when they came for their short stay – wasn’t finished.
  2. The job of filling all of the vacant positions at the jail – wasn’t finished.
  3. The job of rolling out the Sheriff’s Community Outreach Urban Team (SCOUTS) — wasn’t finished.
  4. The job of keeping our staff and inmate population free of COVID – wasn’t finished.

I am here to finish the job at hand. I have the experience, education and skills molded by service at all levels of law enforcement to lead with compassion to finish the job. I often say because I truly believe, we are stronger together and working together we can finish the job at hand.

What are the top 3 priority issues that Wayne County faces and what actions would you, sheriff, take regarding each of them? Continue to work with the Wayne County Executive’s administration to complete the new jail facility and implement innovative ways to provide programs that help people in our jails. This includes the most recent effort with our stakeholders such as 36th District Court’s decision where we provided public support to revamp the cash bail system as a way to reduce our jail population. We are working with our community stakeholders to find new ways to reach qualified applicants, get them trained and working on our staff. And we are building on the success of our community outreach program that allows us to partner with communities such as Harper Woods to help with traffic enforcement. These approaches are strong evidence of how my belief that we are stronger together is implemented in very practical ways with our communities.

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  • Dorothy Hernandez
    Dorothy Hernandez is Digital Editor for 101.9 WDET, creating digital editorial content. Her love of radio began when she had a radio show in college when she and her roommate played '80s music in the middle of the night.