OAKLAND COUNTY (WWJ) – Local police may not be as prepared to handle situations like the mass shooting in San Bernardino if they were to happen in metro Detroit, now that they’ve been ordered to return surplus military vehicles to the government.
Following the police shooting and riots in Ferguson, Missouri last year, the Obama Administration made a blanket order for all such armored equipment to be returned, given concerns of police becoming too militarized. In issuing his executive order, President Barack Obama said an interagency group found “substantial risk of misusing or overusing” items like an armored personnel carrier, could undermine trust in police.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said his department is unfortunately surrendering their M113 armored personnel carrier on Thursday.
“The odd thing is this all drew attention post-Ferguson and, you know, the incident in Ferguson had nothing to do with an armored vehicle, it had nothing to do with any military grade equipment. It was an incident on the street with an ordinary patrol car, a police officer and one individual,” Bouchard told WWJ’s Ron Dewey. “The first time any kind of equipment showed up was during protest riots … with a sniper placed on top of the armored vehicle in open sight. But instead of reacting to improper deployment kind of questions, the administration responded by saying ‘Well, we’re going to take these back from the whole country.’ It just really makes no sense.”
Bouchard said police have utilized these types of vehicles for years, which have been critical in situations like the 2012 standoff in West Bloomfield where police officer Patrick O’Rourke was killed.
“We used multiple armored vehicles to evacuate families from their homes that were getting hit by automatic gunfire from the suspect, and we used armored vehicles to protect officers to put them into place to surround the home,” he said. “Apparently the administration and some folks think that is scarier, militarized. But we call it prepared.”
Bouchard said recent incident like the shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic and Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California prove even further why local law enforcement should have access to these vehicles.
“Now, you’re leaving communities less prepared to deal with active shooters or dangerous situations,” he said. “If something like Paris happens here, it’s local police — it’s not the military and it’s not the federal government that responds, it’s local police that responds. And so the question for the administration is do they think it makes sense on any level to have police respond with a simple everyday patrol car when people are shooting high-powered weapons at civilians and police officers?”
Bouchard said Oakland County is lucky, because his department already has another vehicle, a Lenco Bear, they can use to replace the one they’re giving up. Other local departments aren’t in the same situation.
“Macomb County and Wayne County will be left without as a result of this decision,” he said. “Macomb is talking about trying to budget $350,000 to buy a replacement vehicle for one that is working perfectly for them now, that’s going to be taken away by the administration and — catch this — it’s going to be destroyed. It’s going to be used as a target practice device.”
Because the local police force now has one less tool to protect citizens, Bouchard said citizens need to take matters in their own hands and learn to prepare themselves for an active shooter situation much like they would for a house fire or a tornado.
“It’s sad but it’s a reality in this world,” he said. “These are stressful and anxiety filled times. It’s a good reminder to everyone to think if they were in a situation, what would they do, where are the exits, and have a pre-plan. Think about that but don’t stress about it. It’s one of those things where it’s unlikely it will happen to you but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least have some thought of preparation of what you would do and how you would do it.”
The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office has created a response guide to dealing with an active shooter that provides a plan of action citizens should follow if they find themselves in such a situation.
Click here to download the guide (.pdf format)