Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon passed Thursday evening at the age of 65 after battling COVID-19 for several weeks.
Napoleon was with family when he died at Henry Ford Hospital, his daughter Tiffani Jackson said.
As Wayne County residents think of her father, she also asked them to turn their memories toward his dedication. Sheriff Napoleon was a man who dedicated decades to public service and became a household name to metro Detroiters.
He was the son of a minister, was a Detroit Public Schools student, graduating from Cass Technical High School, later earning his bachelor’s degree from Mercy College of Detroit and his doctorate from Michigan State University.
Napoleon announced he was positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 19. He had taken a test on Nov. 13 and tested negative, but then took another test on Nov. 17.
The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office had already suffered serious losses to the pandemic, which killed one commander and two deputies and infected others.
Benny Napoleon’s brother, Highland Park Police Chief Hilton Napoleon, spent 71 days in the hospital with COVID-19 before beating the disease in May. Detroit Police Chief James Craig had COVID-19 in May, and Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham contracted the virus in November.
Napoleon was appointed Wayne County Sheriff after the position became vacant in 2009. He was elected to remain in the position in 2012 and was re-elected every four years since, most recently in 2020. He spent most of his career at the Detroit Police Department, starting in 1975 and worked his way up to police chief, assuming the position in 1998. He retired from DPD in 2001 and became Wayne County assistant executive in 2004.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson expressed their condolences following the news of Napoleon’s passing.
I am heartbroken at the news of my dear friend Benny’s passing. Sheriff Napoleon’s love for the people he served was returned many times over. His quick laugh, eager partnership, and candid counsel is what I will miss most. Sharon, Tiffani and his whole family are in my prayers.— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) December 18, 2020
Napoleon was “one of our city’s greatest public servants,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement.
So sad to learn that we’ve lost Sheriff Benny Napoleon to #COVID19. Grateful for his grace, kindness and steadfast commitment to serving and protecting the citizens of Wayne County and the City of Detroit.— Jocelyn Benson (@JocelynBenson) December 18, 2020
Napoleon, during his tenure as sheriff, expanded the county’s electronic monitoring program to more than 500 tether participants a day, which, according to the sheriff’s office, generated about $22 million in savings. He also reduced daily inmate populations by using alternate incarceration options.
At a prayer vigil at the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office headquarters on Woodward Avenue in Detroit during his illness, Wayne County Undersheriff Daniel Pfannes told Local 4 (WDIV-TV) that Napoleon “was a man that took every precaution possible and it (the virus) still found him. We need to be very careful.”
Napoleon is survived by his daughter, Tiffani Jackson, his 84-year-old mother and his four siblings.
Our deepest condolences go out to Sheriff Napoleon’s family at this time.