Local, state, federal leaders react to death of Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon

Sheriff died Thursday from complications due to COVID-19, family confirms

Leaders react after Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon dies from COVID-19 complications
Leaders react after Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon dies from COVID-19 complications

DETROIT – Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon died Thursday from complications due to COVID-19 at age 65, his family confirms.

Several local, state and federal leaders have issued the following statements in response to Napoleon’s death.

READ: Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon dies from COVID-19

“I cannot even begin to imagine a world without Benny in it. He was a beloved, iconic, and respected law enforcement official. He was progressive and he was old school. He was tough and he had a heart of gold. But most of all, he was a genuine, caring, and loyal friend and colleague. I will miss him forever.”

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy

“I am shocked and saddened at the loss of one of our city’s greatest public servants and native sons, Benny Napoleon. I cannot think of a leader in this town who has been more loved and admired than Benny. He was born in the city, served our community courageously his entire adult life, and loved Detroit as much as anyone I’ve ever known. Please keep his daughter Tiffani, his family and friends, and the entire Wayne County sheriffs office in your prayers as they struggle with their painful loss.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan

“I always enjoyed spending time with Benny. We worked together closely on law enforcement matters to protect the families and neighborhoods of Wayne County. Through those challenging times, Benny’s smile always brightened our days.”

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider, Eastern District of Michigan

Benny Napoleon was truly a gentleman in every sense of the word. I am saddened by the loss of a man who spent most of his life serving others as a “Peace Officer” and leader in the law enforcement community. I am grateful to have been his friend.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel

“I am heartbroken to learn of the passing of my friend and colleague Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon. I have long admired his work at the department and was honored to have an opportunity to partner with him as a colleague. Benny was beloved by so many in the Wayne County community and around the state. We enjoyed a close relationship since the time I took office, including working feverishly together last spring to bring much-needed PPE to his department to protect his deputies, who he cared so deeply for. I could always count on Benny for his support, his input and his cooperation. He was a wonderful man and his passing is a loss not only for his family but also for his many friends and co-workers. Benny had so much life yet to live; our community has once again lost someone larger than life to this vicious pandemic. My heart goes out to Benny’s family. It was an honor and a privilege to call him my sheriff.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

“Detroit lost a friend and protector this evening who loved his town, his family and his community and the UAW. Benny Napoleon dedicated his life to making the lives of the people of Wayne County safer and better for his service. For Benny public service was about duty and justice and policing that both was protective and fair in its administration. He rose from the police beat, to Police Chief, to Assistant County Administrator and County Sheriff, breaking barriers and creating goodwill. Benny was a friend of the UAW who did not shy away from the divisions we still battle today. It is the irony of ironies that this protector could not be saved from this tragic pandemic. Whether you knew him or not, and I knew him well, we will all miss Benny Napoleon because he made us all a little safer - and left us all better as people in a safer, friendlier and most of all a better community.”

UAW President Rory Gamble

“I am at a loss for words in finding out about the passing of a dear friend and law enforcement partner, Sheriff Benny Napoleon. Benny led the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office with professionalism and provided excellent leadership for his agency. I was privileged to work with him on policy issues at both the state and federal level that made a difference for law enforcement across the country. It was comforting to know that our county partner to the south was always a phone call away and Benny always stepped up if we needed assistance. My heart goes out to his family and the men and women of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office during this difficult time. Sheriff Napoleon will be deeply missed and I am saddened to lose a close member of my law enforcement family.”

Oakland County Sheriff Michael J. Bouchard

“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. He was a truly special person. Sharon, Tiffani and his whole family are in my prayers.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

“Sheriff Benny Napoleon’s passing is a tremendous loss for the city of Detroit, Wayne County, and the entire state of Michigan. Benny was a pillar in the community—a model public servant who lead by example through conscientious words and selfless service. All throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Sheriff Napoleon stood tall on the front lines alongside members of his department to ensure that our community had what it needed to get through this crisis together. He was a progressive ally and champion for changing the justice system to better serve society. And he offered himself as a mentor at every opportunity, so that young leaders, like myself, can be, believe in, and become our greatest selves. Benny’s loss hits hard in the soul of so many people in southeast Michigan who had a chance to connect with him over his decades of service, and his legacy leaves our lives better because of his presence. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. Rest in power.”

Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II

“The people of Wayne County have suffered a terrible loss with tonight’s passing of Sheriff Benny Napoleon. Sheriff Napoleon was a trusted member of law enforcement throughout the county and his experience in lawfully handling cases never questioned. Chief Napoleon had been an iconic figure since entering law enforcement in 1975 with the Detroit Police Department and respected by law enforcement officials across the nation. He was a great friend who served our communities courageously and, on behalf of the Wayne County Commission, prayers go out to his beloved family at this time of sorrow. Chief Napoleon you will be missed, but never forgotten.”

Wayne County Commission Chair Alisha Bell

“Today the residents of the City of Detroit and Wayne County have lost an exemplary public servant who dedicated his life to protect and serve his community and inspired others to join the law enforcement profession. A lifelong Detroiter and highly respected law enforcement official who had a deep devotion to his family and the citizens he had the honor to serve. It is with tremendous sadness and gratitude that we offer our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to his family and loved ones.”

Michigan House Democrats Detroit Caucus

“Our hearts are saddened and our gratefulness has been strengthened because of the life of Sheriff Benny Napoleon. Benny was not just a Sheriff. He was a Watchmen who loved and protected this community. He was a selfless warrior for peace through justice. God’s infinite blessings upon Tiffani and family as we embrace the men and women of the Wayne County Sheriff Department.”

Detroit Branch NAACP

“Words cannot begin to convey the pain we all feel tonight with the passing of Sheriff Benny Napoleon. We have lost a true pillar in our community. He was a dedicated public servant, a loving father to his daughter Tiffani, and a life-long friend to many. My heart aches as Renata and I send out our prayers and condolences to the family. Benny and I were more than colleagues. We were close friends. Benny shared a love for Wayne County — especially for the city of Detroit—and that love showed in his passion for making our lives better and our community safer and fairer. I also want to share my condolences with my brothers and sisters in the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office and the Detroit Police Department who served with and under Benny. Benny had such a strong bond with the men and women who put on the uniform every day. I know he was strengthened by your thoughts and prayers in these last weeks. It seems like we have had to say too many goodbyes since COVID-19 hit our community. Benny’s passing reminds us of the short time we have to make the world a better place. I can honestly say the world is a better place because of my friend Benny, and I will miss him dearly.”

Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans

“For fifty years, beginning as athletes at Cass Tech and continuing through various forms of public service, I have known, loved, and respected Sheriff Benny Napoleon. As a son of a Baptist pastor, and having been raised in the church, Sheriff Napoleon walked with a common touch, spoke with a tender tongue and valued all no matter their station in life.

“Three score and ten is what we are told is a reasonable expectation of life on this earth. But what we don’t expect is to be failed by those we entrust our lives to when they don’t adequately fight to thwart the spread and devastation of this pandemic. This public policy failure had claimed a giant leader. May those of us yet here do all we can to ensure that no other may senselessly succumb to such a life ending fate.

“I, and all those who serve at the Sheffield Center, lend our voice to the celestial choir now chanting upon Sheriff Napoleon’s heavenly entrance “job well done my good and faithful servant”

Rev. Horace L. Sheffield III

“On behalf of Court staff and sheriff deputies assigned to the Wayne County Probate Court, we offer our deepest sympathies to the family of Sheriff Benny Napoleon.

“He provided us with professional law enforcement officers and always responded immediately if a problem arose. A fixture in law-enforcement and public service, our community has lost a great leader and keeper of the faith. He shall be missed.”

Freddie G Burton Jr., Chief Judge, Wayne County Probate Court

“It is a dark time in our city as one of our most humble and iconic leaders has returned to God’s loving arms. I am speaking of Benny Napoleon. Benny, as he was affectionately known by everyone he met, was the true essence of a Detroiter. A product of Detroit Public Schools, Benny rose through the ranks of the Detroit Police Department to become its Chief. Later, he ran successfully several times as Wayne County Sheriff.

“I first met Benny in the 70′s, as we both attended Cass Technical High School. Benny was the star point guard of the basketball team and I cheered his actions from the stands as a member of the Pep Club. Even back then, everyone could see Benny was destined for greatness. And he didn’t disappoint. Beneath all his successes was a deep and abiding faith in God. Benny possessed a strong religious foundation and was never shy to let others know of his love for Jesus Christ. Benny came from the Napoleon family whose members believe in faith, treating people fairly and lending a hand to those in need. Along with all Detroiters, I express my love and condolences to them during this time of great loss. Benny made our city better and we will miss him. His smile sparkled and led us through rough times. His calm demeanor reassured us that, no matter the problem, we would make it through. Benny inspired all those around him and leaves scores of colleagues that he taught, guided and mentored. The cliché saying, “He will truly be missed,” takes on a whole new meaning today. Thank you Benny for loving us. Thank you Benny for protecting us. Thank you Benny for showing us that the best of humanity could come from the city of Detroit. We are forever grateful for you.”

Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones

“Sheriff Napoleon was a man of integrity and honor, his loss will resonate throughout our region. He recognized his calling early in life, his work exemplified what law enforcement should be, and he faced challenges with a collaborative, can-do spirit. His legacy will be one of an ardent protector and a man whose contagious, positive attitude set an example for so many of us in public service. My sincere condolences go out to his family and the residents of Wayne County.”

Washtenaw County Administrator Gregory Dill

“The passing of Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon has brought deep sadness to our entire community. Sheriff Napoleon was a son of the city of Detroit and Wayne County, and dedicated his life to service. We will forever have the photos and memories of him smiling with so many of our neighbors and his heroic actions in protecting us, especially children.

“COVID-19 has brought about pain and loss to us all. Losing Sheriff Napoleon to this horrible virus has brought an even darker cloud over the Metro Detroit area. We’ve lost a great public servant with a big heart. I am sending my prayers and condolences to the Napoleon family. May Benny Napoleon rest in peace.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib

“I, along with so many, many people, went to sleep with a heavy heart and awakened feeling the same. The death of Benny Napoleon is a tremendous loss. He will always be a favorite son of Detroit who dedicated his adult life to unwavering service to its people. I had the pleasure to serve with him in the Archer Administration and continued to work with him in some capacity over the years. Benny’s ability to greet everyone with that smile and make an immediate connection was genuine. Throughout his years in law enforcement, rising through the ranks to the top of the Detroit Police Department and then as Wayne County Sheriff, Benny maintained his humor, his humility, and his ability to touch the lives of the people who served with him, as well as the people they served. His public service went beyond law enforcement. Benny was appointed to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission in 1984, at the age of 29, and went on to chair the Commission from 1988 to 1990. Benny’s legacy of fairness and civility continues with the Commission today. His strength and guidance will remain with us all during these trying times and beyond. May he rest in power and peace.”

Michigan Civil Rights Commission Chair Stacie Clayton

“Benny Napoleon was one of the top law enforcement officers this state has ever produced. I grieve today for the irreplaceable leader that we have lost, and I also grieve for the friend that Benny Napoleon was to me. He was the kind of leader who paved the way for others to follow and made you want to rise through the ranks as well. When I earned my first promotion and became Sergeant, it was Benny who promoted me. He remained my mentor and my friend through every position I held and was the one person I knew I could call upon when I faced rough times and needed wise counsel. He was always about his people – his people on the force and his people in the community. He told me often, ‘Take care of your people and your people will take care of you.’ Thank you, Benny for allowing me to grow in your shadow. You will be sorely missed.”

Michigan Department of Civil Rights James E. White

“I am deeply saddened, and my heart is heavy, as I process the loss of Wayne County Sheriff Benny N. Napoleon. Not only was he a colleague, but he was a dear friend and I considered him to be a bonus brother. He was one of the finest human beings that I have had the pleasure to know. He approached life with a great passion for helping others and he led with compassion and kindness. The loss of Wayne County Sheriff Benny N. Napoleon is a not only a loss for Wayne County and the City of Detroit, but a loss for humanity. I send my condolences and prayers to his daughter Tiffani (grandson Malachi); Sharon; his mother; and the entire Napoleon Family.”

Wayne County Clerk Cathy M. Garrett

About the Author:

DeJanay Booth joined WDIV as a web producer in July 2020. She previously worked as a news reporter in New Mexico before moving back to Michigan.