Ypsi Votes is a new series from the Eastern Echo featuring candidates up and down the ballot in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. Get accessible and in-depth information on the candidates on your ballot. Note: The Echo does not endorse any candidate for any office.
This is the second of two articles featuring the candidates for Washtenaw County Sheriff. Find our feature story on the other candidate for Washtenaw County Sheriff, Ken Magee, here.
Jerry Clayton is running for his fourth term in the Democratic Primary for Washtenaw County Sheriff. Ken Magee is also running in the Democratic Primary. There are no Republican candidates for Sheriff on the ballot.
Sheriff Jerry Clayton is seeking his fourth term as the top law enforcement official in Washtenaw County. He was first elected in 2008 and had previously served for 20 years in various positions within the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department, including as a corrections officer, a deputy sheriff, and command officer. He also served as the Washtenaw County Jail administrator.
For a fourth term, one priority Clayton plans to take on is the implementation of the LEAD program, or Law Enforcement Assisted Deflection Diversion. The program aims to help communities handle low-level offenses that have root causes in mental health, or unaddressed human needs, such as addiction, poverty, and homelessness, outside of the justice system.
"Sheriff Clayton believes that only those individuals who are a threat to other should be incarcerated," Clayton's campaign website says. "All others should be deflected, diverted, or placed in root cause treatment programs utilizing Restorative Justice principles. No one should remain in jail awaiting trial simply because they do not have the money to pay bail."
Clayton has endorsed fellow Democrat Arianne Slay for Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney, who says she is, "committed to working with Sherriff Clayton to implement the LEAD program."
Earlier this year, a video went viral showing a Washtenaw County Sheriff’s deputy striking Ypsilanti Township woman Sha’Teina Grady El multiple times while making an arrest. The video sparked intense criticism from community members, and protests were organized in response.
The incident happened on Memorial Day in Ypsilanti Township, the same day that George Floyd was killed in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department.
In response, the sheriff’s department placed several staff members, including the officer involved in the incident, on paid administrative leave and immediately opened an investigation. The Michigan Attorney General’s office will review the investigation underway by the department, and will review the evidence in the case.
Sheriff Clayton, speaking with Local 4 News, said the incident was disheartening to him, and that the deputy’s actions do not represent the department as a whole.
“Obviously, it’s an unfortunate situation. The images themselves are disturbing to me,“ Clayton said. “We have spent over a decade working and culturing the organization and partnering with the community and co-producing public safety.”
"We had this incident on Tuesday all combined with what’s happening in Minnesota and Georgia and Louisville and quite frankly -- what has happened in the African American community, especially with relationships with the police for decades,“ Clayton said.
Clayton has already implemented reforms that are now being supported by the national Black Lives Matter movement, including the policies from the 8cantwait campaign.
The 8cantwait campaign is a list of eight police use-of-force reforms aimed at dramatically reducing incidents of police violence in the United States.
Banning chokeholds and strangleholds, requiring deescalation techniques in department policy, and requiring a warning before an officer fires their gun are some of the policies on the list.
All eight recommendations have already been implemented in the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office, and had been implemented before the national 8cantwait campaign launched.
Clayton is also hoping to finish implementing a special mental health treatment unit within the department, a project that his website says was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding for the project came from the county’s 2017 public safety millage, which raised $15 million in 2018.
"The [sheriff’s office] contracts with Community Mental Health to do assessments and provide mental health services for individuals while they are in the jail,“ Clayton’s website says. "CMH then provides continuity of services after they are released into the community. Many of the individuals in the jail also have co-occurring substance use disorders. These individuals need treatment and should only be incarcerated as a last resort.”
Clayton’s website boasts a list of accomplishments from his first 12 years in office, including:
- The development and passage of a Police Services Mental Health Millage
- The return of millions of dollars to the county budget by analyzing the cost effectiveness of department operations, including $2 million his first year in office
- Building strong inter-agency law enforcement collaborations
- The consolidation of multiple law enforcement services in the county by creating the Interagency Collaborative Team
- A long collaborative relationship with Community Mental Health
- Served as the chair of MCOLES, the body that oversees officer training in Michigan. He was selected by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to sit on the Task Force on Pretrial Incarceration and helped design reforms
- Clayton is currently serving, and has previous served, on a large number of advisory boards in the county, state, and country
To see the full list of Clayton’s accomplishments and positions on issues, please visit his website.
Clayton has an extensive list of endorsements from local and state elected officials. The list includes:
- Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI)
- Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI)
- Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist
- Ypsilanti Mayor Lois Richardson
- Ypsilanti Mayor Pro Tem Nicole Brown
- State Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor)
- 8 of the 9 members of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners
Clayton says if elected, this will be his final term as Washtenaw County Sheriff.