The sheriff of Wayne County, Mich., died from the coronavirus on Thursday, becoming the latest and one of the most prominent members of law enforcement to succumb to the pandemic.
Benny Napoleon, 65, had been the sheriff of the county, which includes Detroit, since 2009. The sheriff announced on Nov. 19 that he had tested positive for the virus and was hospitalized the next day. He is the third known member of the sheriff’s office to die from the virus.
“I cannot think of a leader in this town who has been more loved and admired than Benny,” Mayor Mike Duggan of Detroit, who defeated Sheriff Napoleon in the 2013 election, said in a statement. “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.”
Since the earliest weeks of the pandemic, law enforcement officials have expressed great concern that, as emergency responders who regularly interact with the public, their ranks were particularly susceptible to infection. And indeed, the virus has taken its toll on law enforcement.
More than 300 law enforcement employees in the United States have died of Covid-19, according to a list compiled from media reports by the Fraternal Order of Police. The Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit that memorializes law enforcement officers, has tallied 164 coronavirus-related deaths.
Sheriff Napoleon’s own brother, the police chief in Highland Park, Mich., overcame a severe bout of Covid-19, which had him in the hospital for about two and a half months and on a ventilator for part of that time.
Law enforcement agencies throughout the country have struggled with outbreaks that have sidelined hundreds of officers, with Detroit especially hard hit.
The Detroit Police Department, where Sheriff Napoleon was once the chief, had at least 180 infections in April, leading more than 1,000 officers to have to quarantine at some point. Even the department’s current chief, James Craig, tested positive.
The department has had to combat another outbreak more recently, with 62 police employees testing positive in the middle of last month and 92 in quarantine, according to The Detroit Free Press.