Auburn Hills Police Chief Describes Today’s SWAT Team Situation

Auburn Hills Police Chief Describes Today’s SWAT Team Situation

(Auburn Hills Police Chief Doreen Olko, March 6, 2017)

Auburn Hills, MI – Today was tense and challenging.  But it ultimately had a peaceful outcome which was our goal.

At 10:51 am we received the first call of a man trying doors at houses where no one was home.  Several officers responded into the area and stopped more than one person in the area.  At one point they found a person who fit the description of the suspicious individual.  When officers tried to stop him he struggled and fled on foot through back yards and over fences with officers close behind.  Neighbors who saw what was happening assisted the officers by giving information about where he was last seen.  Sgt. Rick Leonard who was the on scene supervisor called for a dog.  Our department does not have tracking dogs since so many departments around us do have dogs that we can easily borrow.  The Sheriff’s Office sent a deputy with a dog who started an immediate track and ultimately found where the suspect had entered the garage of a home.  We learned quickly from the neighbors that the homeowner was away .

Meanwhile I was listening in my office and called for the Sheriff’s helicopter myself when I heard Sgt. Leonard calling for help.  Lieutenant Gagnon dropped what he was doing and headed to the scene along with all of our detectives.  Fortunately School Resource Officer Brian Miller heard the radio traffic and immediately called for locking down a nearby grade school. I was relieved to hear him on the radio.  Later he consulted with Lt. Miarka on a plan to handle school dismissal at the high school and the elementary if the incident should continue until dismissal time.  Fortunately we didn’t need that plan.

Lieutenant Miarka took over as our Public Information Officer sending out a “shelter in place” notice to our Bloomfield Orchards NIXLE messaging group.  (If you are not subscribed, go here:  NIXLE.  He was also on scene giving updates to the media who were at the nearby staging point. We know that you are informed by the media what we are doing so on a scene like this they are our partners in getting information out to you.

Lieutenant Gagnon was the on scene commander and once it was determined that the subject was in the garage and likely in the house, he requested the Oakland County Sheriff’s Special Response Team (SRT).  Our department does not have an SRT or SWAT team.  As a smaller department we expend our efforts on meeting our communities needs daily but we do not invest in a team like this.  Teams of this sort are tremendously expensive in equipment and training.  It is rarely used in a town like ours (I count 5 times in the 23 years I have been here).  So we work well with the Sheriff’s highly trained team and call them when we need them. I was on scene as well.  There is a methodology to these teams with which I am familiar.  Their commander, Captain Chris Wundrach, kept us well informed of the steps they were taking.  They are the technical experts but they are ultimately leaving and we are staying, so we work in close coordination to make sure that we all get the outcome we want by methods that are acceptable to all parties.

Once in position, SRT members used their tools to talk to the subject in the house.  Dr. LaMar Gardner, a psychologist for the team was on scene as well.  He assists in negotiations in these situations.  Shortly before 3 pm the suspect came out and was taken into custody without incident. He was transported by our officers to our station for questioning and then lodged at the Oakland County Jail.

Officer Joel Foreman injured his foot in the original fight but we believe he will be OK.  No other injuries or damage.

Bloomfield Orchards neighbors were alert and called us quickly to report this suspicious person.  We appreciate how they assisted officers and followed directions of personnel on scene.  We know these are difficult situations when you are asked to leave your home or stay away from your home.  We don’t have much time to give explanations in the moment.  The homeowner came to the scene when he was called and stood by while the whole thing went down.  Fortunately his home wasn’t damaged in a significant way.

The suspect’s parents came to the scene since he is a local guy known to us but we were not able to let them near.  I think they feared the worst.  Things have been in a downward spiral for their son lately.  He will be arraigned tomorrow.  At that time we will release his identity and the charges.

I have often heard non police people say that it seems like there are layers of police – local, county, state. federal.  But I would counter that.  I say it is more like a jigsaw puzzle.  We fit together with our skills, equipment, training and mission to achieve good outcomes for those who need us.

This blog is reprinted with permission from Chief Olko’s “Straight from the Chief” blog.

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