Position on Issues

21st Century Policing

Sheriff Clayton supports the findings of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.  As a result of his leadership, the WCSO has formulated many of the organizations, policy, training practices and operational protocols in alignment with the principles established by the task force. Additionally, the Sheriff’s Office is currently developing a Compliance Dashboard and Community Based Compliance Commission to evaluate the implementation of the recommendations outlined in the Task Force Report.

Executive Summary

Report Analysis

Final Report


Sheriff Clayton is a leader in progressive policing reform. The Sheriff’s Office has previously developed and implemented policy and procedures consistent with the #8cantwait recommendations before their campaign occurred.

Learn more here.

Covid-19 Response

Sheriff Clayton and the WCSO began early on to make efforts to reduce the WCSO jail population. Staff prepared and sent lists of people in the jail who were pre-trial, had been convicted of non-violent crimes or were scheduled to be released soon, to County judges. The judges make the decisions as to who is in the jail and who and when they can be released, which they have been doing. The WCSO continued to send lists to the judges every week. The WCSO employs alternatives to arrest for non-violent infractions and focuses on arrest for violent crimes and individuals who are considered a potential threat to the community. This includes arrest of individuals suspected of domestic violence.

As a result of these multiple efforts, the number of people incarcerated in the WCSO jail has been reduced by over 55% from an average daily population in 2019 of 365 to a population in the low 140s. 

The WCSO has made and continues to make every effort to keep those in our jail safe during this crisis. The reduction in numbers in the jail allows the jail to quarantine suspected cases of Covid-19 so that the other incarcerated individuals and staff are kept safe. The Jail provides surgical masks to incarcerated individuals for mandatory use whenever they leave their cells. Everyone coming into the jail is screened to make sure they do not have symptoms. Informational video messages for the incarcerated individuals and for their families were created to reduce fear and confusion during these challenging times. 

Sheriff Clayton’s goal during the Covid-19 crisis has been to keep everyone safe; incarcerated individuals, staff, and community.

Community Engagement

Community Engagement is foundational to Sheriff Clayton’s vision for the WCSO. One of the first things Sheriff Clayton did when taking office in 2009 is to hire a social worker as his Director of Community Engagement. The position at a Director level made it equal to the Commander of Police Services and Corrections sending a message about its importance. The Community Engagement Division and its many projects to improve the lives of our residents is funded in part by funds from the County Public Safety/Mental Health millage, and the Forfeiture Fund (money forfeited from those victimizing the community.) Community Engagement has become integrated throughout the fabric of the WCSO and is a part of everything the WCSO does – from the Outreach Program which has hired former justice involved persons with felonies, to the Corrections Division which holds an annual Community Reunification holiday event to Court Security members who have volunteered during the Covid-19 crisis to deliver food and other essential goods to seniors and other marginalized members of our county.

Multiple examples of WCSO community engagement activities and initiatives can be found in the section on ACCOMPLISHMENTS – BUILDING SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT


Deflection means moving a person away from the criminal justice system and toward community behavioral health and social services without ever being arrested and processed into the criminal justice system. Deflection is a public health approach to public safety. During his 4th Term, Sheriff Clayton plans to implement processes in the Washtenaw County Criminal Justice System that incorporate deflection (as well as Diversion and Restorative Practices).

Defunding the Police

Defunding the Police is a phrase that can have a number of possible meanings. The concept of defunding the police can include “abolition” which refers to getting rid of police, to taking money from the police, to reimagining policing as co-produced with human service providers and the public. Sheriff Clayton believes that defunding (taking money away) policing agencies would be counterproductive to many of the reform efforts that are supported by experts in the field and advocated for by most members of the public. Increased training for instance cannot take place with less funding. Advocating for increased support for mental health services, for example, should not necessarily mean less funding for law enforcement reforms. The either or of “defund the police or support social services” is a false dichotomy. Creating a more just society with better outcomes for individuals should be the overarching goal, and we should develop strategies and programs, and then fund them based on those desired outcomes.

Please also see Sheriff Clayton’s discussion of defunding the police in the “In the News” section.


Diversion refers to of a variety of programs that implement strategies seeking to avoid the formal processing of an offender by the criminal justice system. Although diversion strategies take many forms, a typical diversion program results in a person who has been accused of a crime being directed into a treatment or care program as an alternative to criminal prosecution and imprisonment. Sheriff Clayton supports Diversion along with Deflection and Restorative Justice. He believes that only those individuals who are a threat to others belong in the jail. All others should be assessed to determine the root cause of their contact with law enforcement and then have those needs addressed so the likelihood of recidivism is reduced.

Gun Control, Rights and Limitations

Sheriff Clayton believes in and supports the U.S. Constitution, which includes the Second Amendment. However, like all other rights bestowed by the constitution it has limits. Sheriff Clayton believes in common sense gun control. These include universal background checks (no exceptions). The general public does not need weapons designed only for warfare, such as assault weapons. Domestic violence perpetrators and individuals with mental health challenges should not have access to guns. The proliferation of guns in this country leads to an increase in domestic violence and suicide deaths, violent crime and increased misery on the streets of our cities, and accidents which kill children and adults.


Sheriff Clayton believes in protecting and serving all the residents of Washtenaw County and that maintaining a trusting relationship with members of the immigrant community, documented and undocumented, helps make all members of our community safer. Sheriff Clayton has made it clear that the WCSO will not enforce federal immigration law which would negatively impact a trusting relationship and cooperation from members of the immigrant community. Except in extremely unusual circumstances where there is a threat to public safety, the WCSO jail will not hold undocumented people in the jail on immigration detainers but will require a court issued warrant. Sheriff Clayton supports DACA and opposes immigration policies that are inhumane, incarcerate children and separate them from their parents.

See also the “In the News” section.


Sheriff Clayton believes that only those individuals who are a threat to other should be incarcerated. 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. The WCSO is in the process of implementing the LEADD (Law Enforcement Assisted Deflection Diversion) program.

Mental Health & Substance Use Disorders

The WCSO jail is the primary provider of free mental health services in Washtenaw County. No one thinks this is a good thing. The WCSO is working on implementation of a special mental health treatment unit (which was interrupted by Covid-19). The WCSO contracts with Community Mental Health to do assessments and provide mental health services for individuals while they are in the jail. 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. Sheriff Clayton developed and led the passage of the Police Services Mental Health millage designed to address the mental health challenges of so many of our residents.

Police Reform

Sheriff Clayton is a leading advocate and voice in the law enforcement field for policing reform. Sheriff Clayton has implemented best practices at the WCSO which are now being called for as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. He implemented the 8cantwait reforms years before they even had a name. Sheriff Clayton came into office in 2009 with a reform agenda and plans for change. He has kept those promises, creating an agency that is respected nationally. He is still working to improve the Sheriff’s Office, believing any entity, individuals or organizations, can always “be better” and should change & evolve.

Procedural Justice

Procedural Justice is the concept that how individuals regard the justice system is tied to the perceived fairness of the process and how they were treated rather than just the perceived fairness of the outcome. In other words, even if someone “loses” his case in court they may view the system favorably if they feel the outcome was achieved fairly. Procedural justice is taught at the WCSO. It is tied to other training areas such as cultural competency, anti-bias, de-escalation, recognizing mental health crisis, etc. It also aligns with Sheriff Clayton’s deeply felt belief that the power of the Sheriff’s Office comes directly from the people who elect him and who he serves.


Sheriff Clayton supports peaceful protests as constitutionally protected speech. Protests that block traffic fall within this protected speech. Violent destruction of property or threats of harm to people do not. Like all rights there are limits. Sheriff Clayton supports the Black Lives Matter protests and movement as part of “the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice” and hopefully a reckoning on race that will lead to a more perfect union.

Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice is an approach for solving conflict and problems which focuses on making the community whole, while incorporating accountability for the offender and justice and closure for the offended parties. Sheriff Clayton supports restorative justice for non-violent and some assaultive crimes depending on the circumstances. Some crimes such as Domestic Violence may not be appropriate for victim offender conferencing where there is a danger of greater victimization for the person who has been hurt.

Sheriff Clayton has been working tirelessly for the County’s residents over the last 12 years, and he understands and supports the community’s needs and concerns. This is a challenging time that requires a leader with a proven history of reform, and he has that. Sheriff Clayton prioritizes rehabilitation over incarceration, and is a strong advocate for increased mental health services. He is a proven leader.

Debbie Dingell, U.S. Representative

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