DETROIT – All month long we are celebrating Black History Month.
The late Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon was a transcendent figure. He spent most of his law enforcement career with the Detroit Police Department becoming police chief in 1998.
Napoleon went on to become Wayne County assistant executive and then sheriff in 2009. It was his passion for Detroit that made him a household name. His charitable work included coat drives for kids and successful golf fundraisers.
Napoleon was a proud Cass Tech alumni spending years raising money for student programs. He was an admired and well respected law enforcement official. Those who know him say his daughter Tiffany is proof of his character. And that he set the bar high for future generations of Detroiters.
“Benny’s legacy will be that he was always a person who was open to everyone. He drew the entire community together,” said Gwen Moore, a graduate of Cass Technical High School.
During times of racial strife or social upheaval Napoleon always led by example.
“He was a change maker because he was so extremely proud of Detroit,” said Wayne County Executive, Warren Evans.
Moore spoke about how humble Napoleon remained throughout his career.
“He never let a title impact his humanity towards someone else. And that is something that we can carry on,” said Moore.
Moore actually went to Cass Technical High School with Napoleon. He says Napoleon’s leadership and team building skills on the basketball court built the foundation of his career as a public servant.
“His coat drives through his scholarship fund with the youth and senior Education Committee, those were things that drove him to, to make a difference in impact, where he believed that those impacts could be the strongest,” said Moore.
Napoleon was uniquely suited to protect and uplift the city he loved as top cop and through the charitable causes he championed all his life.
Evans says public admiration for Napoleon was earned.
“Wherever you went. People called him Benny, and that wasn’t out of disrespect it was out of a connectivity that they seem to have with him in the city,” said Evans.
Napoleon died in December after complications from COVID-19. The pandemic has disproportionally affected Black and brown communities.