Vying for this position are Joseph Banks and Dawanna Witt.


Witt is a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. She has 22 years of experience in law enforcement and currently serves as a major at the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, where she leads the single largest bureau: Adult Detention and Court Services. She grew up in North Minneapolis.

How will you balance the Minneapolis voters’ split desire for alternative resources for policing versus adding police? 

Minneapolis voters clearly want a community with a strong public safety presence. While that public safety is often best provided by police, there are other times when that is created by having well-trained professionals who can provide mental health and other social services. This shouldn’t be an “either/or” proposition: we should have the professionals available who can best address criminal activity and have professionals available who can deliver other human services when our citizens are in need.

How do you plan to handle and address the spike in car jackings?

Currently the Sheriff's Office has a grant-funded Auto Theft Team that is dedicated to investigating carjacking cases within Hennepin County. Since its creation in 2021, this team has been remarkably successful. As Sheriff, I would continue to seek resources to keep this grant, as well as grow this team. Crime thrives when those who commit crimes believe they can get away with it and not face consequences. As Sheriff, I will coordinate law enforcement agencies that work throughout the county and state to identify the places where crime is occurring and focus resources on those places and times. I will work with prosecutors and judges to make sure that those who prey on our citizens are held accountable. Finally, I will communicate with the public, letting them know when anyone in the criminal justice system is falling down in their responsibility to hold criminals accountable for illegal activity.

How will you work to restore trust in the sheriff’s office?

I can bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community because I am from the community. As a kid growing up in South Minneapolis, I didn’t see myself as someone who would be working in the law enforcement/criminal justice field. I grew up around crime. I grew up around drugs and alcohol. I was a teen mom. I didn’t trust the police. But here I am. This is my calling. With 22 years of experience in law enforcement, and a proven track record of developing innovative programs that work, I know that I am up to this task. My lived experiences solidify what I already know and what we have been hearing from the communities that we serve and protect; true engagement, trust, respect and accountability from everyone.   

How do you propose engaging youth and stopping the cycle of crime? 

I have been involved in engaging youth throughout my career. I have the background and training to help youth see that possibility. Youth must see that the opportunities afforded by a crime free life are real.  They must know that they will be held accountable for their actions, good and bad.

I plan to expand our Community Outreach Division so that we can better connect and engage our young people. Sadly, much of the increase in crime has been committed by young people in our community. I will expand youth the youth outreach works that HCSO does so that youth not only understand the consequences of making bad choices but see the potential for a happier life as a productive member of society. Furthermore, I will increase the Sheriff’s Office involvement with proven programs such as Explorers, Internship and Cadet programs.

At some point, we must admit that we must do better with teaching our young people that they are worthy of a better life. Because, if they don’t believe that they can be better and deserve better, we will continue to see this constant level of violent crime.  

What is your opinion on the use of drones and social media monitoring?

Drones have real value—they can be used to search water and places where people can’t easily get to help find vulnerable people who may have wandered away.  The use of drones for general surveillance or for criminal investigation should be very limited to the most extreme circumstances.  Social media monitoring should be restricted to when people’s lives are potentially in danger, but its use should be limited and not include proactively searching for criminal behavior.


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