Sheriff Jerry Clayton has served in the Public Safety sector for over 30 years and is currently in his fourth term as Washtenaw County’s Sheriff. He attended Eastern Michigan University and majored in Public Safety Administration while working at the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office part-time. From this strong foundation, Sheriff Clayton found success in multiple positions.
He served as a front-line Corrections Officer, Deputy Sheriff, and Command Officer and was also appointed to several executive positions including Corrections Commander, Police Services Commander, and SWAT Team Commander.
The Washtenaw 100 had the privilege of speaking with Sheriff Clayton to learn more about his story, the Sheriff’s office, and goals for Washtenaw County.
The Washtenaw 100: Sheriff Clayton, what would you say are the keys to your success throughout your service? How were you able to meet the demands of so many different positions?
Sheriff Clayton: I’ve never been afraid to try something new and I’m not scared off by the responsibility that comes with different roles. Instead, the new responsibilities motivate me. In order to promote or work special assignments at the Sheriff’s Office, you have to test for it, so I started taking as many tests as I could because I believe that each testing process is an opportunity to learn, and the best leaders are the best learners. I specifically pursued leadership positions because I wanted to help change the culture and internal mechanisms of the department.
The Washtenaw 100: You’ve also received international recognition for your work and traveled to Spain, Switzerland, and England to discuss it. Can you tell us a little bit about those experiences?
Sheriff Clayton: Yes, I was part of a police cohort from the United States that was invited to Barcelona, Spain as well as London, England. It was a really nice exchange and sharing of information in which I and other officers shared how we operate as police in the States, and then officers from Spain and England shared how they operate in Europe.
For example, a majority of police officers are unarmed in England and that isn’t the case in the States, so it was a very good conversation to have. We took away ideas and new perspectives and brought them back with us.
I’ve found that answers to challenges in an organization and community often don’t reside directly in that same environment, so I’m very glad that we were able to explore what is possible in other places. This same idea was applied when I was invited to Geneva, Switzerland on behalf of the United Nations to present on racial profiling.
The Washtenaw 100: So, what does The Washtenaw Sheriff’s Office do on a daily basis?
Sheriff Clayton: Well, quite a lot. There are three main divisions.
The Corrections division is responsible for jail operations and ensures the safety of the community and individuals remanded by the courts to our care and custody. It isn’t a responsibility we take lightly because one of the core principles of the United States is everyone is presumed “innocent until proven guilty”. We strive to treat all people in our care with dignity and respect, while protecting their constitutional rights.
The Police Services division provides law enforcement and patrol and investigative services and collaborates with some of our community partners. For example, we have a strong partnership with Washtenaw County Community of Mental Health.
Our Dispatch division is responsible for responding to 911 calls. We address over 93% of 911 calls for numerous areas such as Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Milan, and many more. Our dispatch staff answers emergency calls and then dispatch deputies and officers from the appropriate police agency to respond and provide help.
The Washtenaw 100: Are there any upcoming initiatives or programs that you’re excited about?
Sheriff Clayton: Yes, we’ve got two pilot programs that I am very excited about. One is the Co-Response Unit (CRU). This program consists of a deputy sheriff and a mental health professional working as partners and being dispatched together responding to calls for service. We created this program because you can’t have a safe community if you don’t have community wellness. The two are tied together – mental health and community safety. There is currently only one unit, but we are hoping to expand to two units within the next few months.
The other program is called LEADD which stands for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion and Deflection. The purpose of this program is to provide officers with an alternative to citations, arrests, and incarceration. People who may have unmet mental health needs or suffer from substance abuse are connected with a community-based case manager that can provide them with resources like treatment, employment, or housing. This better positions us to help address the needs (physiological/psychological requirement for well-being), while also managing the limited risk presented by someone who committed or is suspected of committing lower-level offenses in a non-custodial manner.
Learn more about the Crisis Response Initiative
The Washtenaw 100: How has The Washtenaw 100 been able to support the Sheriff’s Office?
Sheriff Clayton: In both concept and execution, The Washtenaw 100 is an outstanding organization that recognizes officers for their sacrifice and supports their families with scholarships for their children. In fact, Washtenaw 100 awarded our Sergeant John Cratsenburg the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award at your Annual Dinner in October. We’re very proud of him and appreciate that you recognized his hard work and dedication to our community.
The Washtenaw 100: Is there anything else that you would like the community to know, Sheriff Clayton?
Sheriff Clayton: The Washtenaw County community is a very smart, vibrant, and inclusive space. It’s a community that cares for people and supports one another to reach their full potential. And our organization strives to continue to nurture and protect that.
Police Services is a noble profession filled with noble intent, but also human beings. Human beings that will ultimately make some mistakes and might not always hit goals, but nonetheless people – who are without a doubt – dedicated every day to keeping their community safe and healthy for generations to come.
The Washtenaw 100: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us Sheriff Clayton. We truly appreciate all that you have done and all that you continue to do for the Washtenaw community.
Sheriff Clayton: It’s my pleasure. Thank you for this opportunity to share what our department has been up to. We appreciate the recognition and support that The Washtenaw 100 continues to give us. If anyone in the community wants to talk further about our role or their needs, they can contact us at https://www.washtenaw.org/1124/Sheriff.