Wayne County sheriff offers assistance to Pointes

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 8, 2023

 Wayne County Sheriff Rafael “Ray” Washington addresses the Grosse Pointe Park City Council during a Feb. 13 meeting.

Wayne County Sheriff Rafael “Ray” Washington addresses the Grosse Pointe Park City Council during a Feb. 13 meeting.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

GROSSE POINTE PARK — Members of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office aren’t a routine presence in the Grosse Pointes, but they could become more visible in the future.

Wayne County Sheriff Rafael “Ray” Washington appeared before the Grosse Pointe Park City Council Feb. 13 to extend an invitation to the community to contact his office if the community needed additional law enforcement officers, such as for a festival.

“We’re here for you,” Washington said. “We have a robust reserve unit. We’re here to help.”

Mayor Michele Hodges said the city has been reaching out to other organizations and agencies to see where and how they can work collaboratively.

“I hope our community is noticing the importance of partnership,” Hodges said. “Partnership is how communities get stuff done.”

Mark Diaz, a member of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office’s recruiting team, said Washington “has a very strong passion for the community” and is keenly interested in assisting communities throughout the county.

“The intent is to provide those backup services with our (county municipalities),” Diaz said.

Paul Martinelli, an officer with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office and a resident of the Pointes, offered to be the liaison between the Pointes and his office.

“We help out a lot (in other cities),” Martinelli said. “We help anywhere. … We want to grow the relationship between the sheriff’s department and the Pointes.”

City Councilman Martin McMillan, who knows Martinelli from Martinelli’s work coaching youth athletes, called Martinelli “a great guy.”

Like many law enforcement agencies, the Sheriff’s Office is struggling to fill openings. Washington said his office is doing everything it can to be attractive to candidates. A new jail and criminal justice complex that Washington said will be “state of the art” is one attractive feature. Washington said the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, 3rd Circuit Court and the juvenile facility will all be moving to the new jail location in August.

“Our staff will feel good about being in a new place,” Washington said.

Diaz said Washington “has been incredibly diligent” with regard to working with Wayne County Executive Warren Evans to secure better wages, benefits and other conditions.

“Things are moving in a great direction,” Diaz said.

The fact that the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office is looking for new officers wasn’t lost on Park officials, who are doing their best to retain and recruit officers themselves.

“We have the most exceptional law enforcement team. … You are not allowed to swipe any of them,” Hodges jokingly told Wayne County Sheriff’s Office officials.

Public Safety Director Bryan Jarrell echoed that sentiment.

“No poaching,” Jarrell kidded the Wayne County officials.

Diaz said they hope to hire at least 100 officers this year.

Washington, who said he’s marking his 40th year in law enforcement in 2023, started his career with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office in 1983 and was there several years before going to the Detroit Police Department, where he spent more than 20 years. He said he returned to the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office in 2009 at the request of former Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon. When Napoleon died of COVID-19 in 2020, Washington was appointed to take his place. He has since been elected to the office and said he plans to run for reelection in 2024. In his last election in November 2022, Washington said he was endorsed by the Grosse Pointe Democratic Club, which he said was “an honor.”