Dawanna S. Witt was elected as the Hennepin County Sheriff on November 8, 2022. She was sworn in and took office on Tuesday, January 3, 2023. She is the first woman and person of color to hold the office.
Sheriff Witt began her professional career in the non-profit field. She earned her first degree in Chemical Dependency and Family Therapy, and her first jobs involved working with families that were battling chemical health issues and often had open child protection cases. While in college, she volunteered in several community organizations in various roles, such as teaching English as a second language, tutoring, and coaching sports. She saw firsthand how her actions could make a positive difference in the lives of young people. Her passion for working with kids remains to this day.
During a tour of the Hennepin County Jail, she was told that the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office was looking for
female detention deputies, specifically women of color. She decided to apply and was hired in 2000. Working as a
detention deputy opened her eyes to the people and possibilities in law enforcement.
In 2004, after returning to school to become a licensed peace officer, Sheriff Witt was hired by the Dakota County
Sheriff’s Office. During her career at Dakota County, she worked in a variety of roles, including bailiff, transport,
school resource officer, detective, recruitment/retention/community outreach, participant in the Inclusion
Diversity Leadership team, and more. In addition to these duties, she also spent time as a coach for MN CIT and
nearly 10 years on the Crisis Negotiation Team.
Ultimately, she became the first woman in the history of the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office to reach the rank of
captain. Through it all, she focused on reaching out to young people and communities that have historically had
poor relationships with the police. During her time as a school resource officer, working with children with mental
health and behavioral challenges, Dakota County Community Corrections experienced a noticeable drop in kids
entering the juvenile justice system.
While working at Dakota County, Sheriff Witt earned a bachelor’s degree in police science and followed that up
with dual master’s degrees in public safety administration and management, which included spending time with
the Northamptonshire Police in the UK as part of her capstone.
Sheriff Witt returned to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in September 2019 to take charge of the agency’s
largest bureau, Adult Detention and Court Services. In her role as a major, she oversaw court security for two of the
most high-profile trials in modern history. She also dealt successfully with the pandemic in Minnesota’s largest jail,
leading the development of new protocols to help limit institutional and community spread of COVID-19.
In 2022, Hennepin County voters overwhelming selected her to be the next Hennepin County Sheriff. She
campaigned on her years of experience and a platform of safer communities, improved law enforcement
recruitment and retention, reform, collaboration, and transparency. Sheriff Witt serves seasonally as a Minnesota
State Fair Police Officer and has served on advisory panels including the State of Minnesota Legislative Task Force
on Child Protection and the State of Minnesota Task Force on Law Enforcement Education Reform. She is a
committee member of the Major County Sheriffs of America (MCSA) Nomination and Award Committee, which
recognizes outstanding employees and units from MCSA member Sheriff’s Offices. She also works as an adjunct
professor at Inver Hills Community College, teaching Juvenile Justice and American Corrections.