ISC West Keynote Speaker Michael Bouchard Shares Lessons Learned From Active Shooter Response & Recovery

ISC West 2022 Keynote: Sheriff Michael J. Bouchard, Oakland County, Michigan

Bouchard, sheriff of Oakland County, Michigan, discusses the top challenges he’s faced in his public safety career, investing in security technology and how law enforcement is addressing workforce development.

ISC West is coming up March 22-25 in Las Vegas, and the Security Industry Association (SIA) and ISC West have revealed full conference details for the SIA Education@ISC West program, including keynote presentations from top luminaries and 60+ sessions on the most current business trends, technologies and industry developments.

SIA is looking forward to the Day 2 keynote – Lessons in Public Safety Response, Crisis Management and Community Resliency in the Age of Mass Shooting – featuring insights from Michael Bouchard, sheriff of Oakland County, Michigan. Sheriff Bouchard, who has held his position since 1999, runs one of the nation’s largest sheriff’s offices, overseeing more than 1,400 employees and managing an annual budget of over $166 million. Formerly the majority floor leader of the Michigan State Senate, Bouchard brings the experience of 35 years of law enforcement and 35 years as an elected official to his role as sheriff.

In this Q&A, SIA spoke with Bouchard about his career in public safety, takeaways from Oakland County’s response to the Oxford High School active shooter incident in 2021, security technology’s role in public safety and addressing workforce development challenges.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career in public safety?

Michael Bouchard: I believe these times are the most challenging I have seen for law enforcement. I have been doing this for a very long time, and I have never seen so many things hit our profession simultaneously. We are facing a withering amount of criticism as a profession, and not just the individuals who are bad. Every profession has terrible people that somehow make it into the ranks, yet there is no context for police that it is a small percentage, terrible as they may be. After some of the worst sex abuse scandals in history by two college doctors in Michigan, you did not hear a call to abolish doctors. People that do wrong must be held accountable, and those that do right must be uplifted. This is on top of an environment that has led to record ambushes on police, record line of duty deaths and surging police suicides. Couple this with historic increases in violent crime, a hiring and staffing crisis and dealing with COVID, and you have pressures like we have never seen.  

How did you and the county address the Oxford High School active shooter incident in 2021, and what was a key lesson learned from the response and recovery efforts?

MB: Deputies of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office responded in the manner and fashion that we have trained them for – swiftly, efficiently and effectively. Tragically, there was still loss of life, and the effects of this traumatic event will be remembered forever by everyone. The efforts by deputies continue as the investigation concludes and prosecution nears.

There are always important questions after events: “Were we prepared enough?” “How could we be more prepared?” “What were the lessons learned?” The advantage, especially in today’s technologically advanced society, is that other agencies besides ours can learn from an after-action analysis. That is what we will be sharing.

How does your department handle investing in security technologies, and how does technology contribute to a holistic public safety approach?

MB: The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office meets routinely with our stakeholders who represent education, businesses, homeowners and local governments to identify their needs and assess any gaps in providing public safety services to our communities. Our investments in technology are fully integrated with well-planned operational policies and training, which improves outcomes and has allowed the sheriff’s office to continue to advance technology into emergency call-taking and call-handling, first responder dispatch and arrival, situational control and investigative follow-up. Through use of advanced GIS-based call routing within our countywide Emergency Service IP Network and integrating commercial products such as Rapid SOS, 911 callers are provided a more accurate and timely response from our deputies. It goes much deeper than that, and the integration and functionality at an operational level are critically important.

One of the top challenges the security industry is facing is that of workforce development and attracting talent to the field. Are you facing that as well in law enforcement, and if so, how are you trying to solve these challenges?

MB: Yes, we are facing many issues attracting new talent and retaining the talent that we do have. Historically, law enforcement positions have been relatively easy to fill and often attracted many more applicants than available positions; this was thanks to a typically stable work environment, promotional opportunities, good benefit packages, predictable retirement and a generally positive career image. However, the challenge facing modern law enforcement is the need to uphold the highest standards of professionalism in an increasingly violent society while ensuring that a diverse applicant pool is sufficient to meet the needs of the communities they serve. This is without many of the benefits we talked about. The difficulty in recruiting law enforcement officers and employees is not due to one cause. Rather, multiple social, political, and socioeconomic forces that are all simultaneously at play shaping the current state of recruitment and retention in the realm of law enforcement.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts and/or profiles are those of the authors or sources and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Security Industry Association (SIA).