Realistic Looking Toy Guns Pose Challenges for Police

One of the deep concerns of officers is mistaking a toy gun for a real gun and shooting a child.  This is a serious and real problem as toy guns look more and more like real guns.  And real guns are looking more and more like toy guns.

A Baltimore police officer shot and wounded a 14-year-old boy in April after spotting him with a Daisy Powerline 340 BB gun, right. A semi-automatic handgun, pictured left, provided by police shows how similar the models look.

Real gun is on the left.  BB gun is on the right.   

This NPR story points out the challenges of this problem.

The article points out that officers in Baltimore picked up a mix of toy and real guns in a raid including a pink rifle.  I easily found this photo of a rifle for sale on the Internet.

See the problem?


Guest Blogger, Recently Retired PSO Gina Thomas Thanks the Community

To the citizens of Auburn Hills,

My name is PSO Gina Thomas, and I wanted to take a moment to thank you.  But first, I would like to give you some background.  You see, my great grandmother lived in Auburn Hills.  My grandparents lived across the street from her.  That’s where my mother grew up, and my uncle still lives there.  I also have other relatives living in this city.  My point is that Auburn Hills has always been a part of my life.  On May 20th, 1991 I hired on the Police Department as a PSO (911 operator/Police-Fire Dispatcher).  Back then, there was no Chrysler headquarters.  Blue Sky Drive In was still at Opdyke and Pontiac Rd.  And Squirrel Rd was a one-lane dirt road.  I have been part of the City’s growing pains – and joys – for the past 25 years.

During my career, I have had many opportunities.  I was in charge of reporting criminal statistics to the State for several years, and trained countless new dispatchers.  For the past 14 years I have been the Department’s liaison to the State, making sure our policies, use of criminal justice information, and computer securities are all in compliance with State and Federal standards.  While all of these things are behind the scenes, they still have an impact on how we serve the community.  However, the greatest opportunity of my career has always been my main responsibility – answering your calls and dispatching help to you.  This is where I get to thank you.  You have all made it so easy to love my profession, made it so rewarding.  That’s not to say it was an easy profession.  Let’s face it – the majority of my contact with you was probably during a stressful or unpleasant time in your day or your life.  It may have been the worst, scariest, or most devastating moment of your life.  If I was able to provide just one of you with comfort, safety, or made you feel just a little less lonely in that moment, then it was all worth it.  You were worth it.

After more than 25 years serving the citizens, the officers, and the firefighters of Auburn Hills, it’s time for me to retire.  But I didn’t want to leave without telling you what an absolute honor it has been.  God bless this community and keep it safe!

Share my confidence in your police

This is a blog from 2015. It is still true. I know them well –share my confidence in the Auburn Hills Police.

Auburn Hills Police Department

In the last week I had an opportunity to read this op-ed by Chief Edward Flynn of the Milwaukee Police Department

Chief Ed Flynn Chief Ed Flynn

published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  His name may not be familiar to you but he is well known among police chiefs.  He has worked in a variety of departments in the east.  He is outspoken but he is also thoughtful and employs progressive strategies to control crime and serve his community.  He can be a controversial figure because he is willing to take on issues.

I liked this piece because I share many of his views.  I am of the same generation of police that Flynn is.  I’ve also been witness to the changes and challenges over the last 40 years.  An excerpt from the article:

In a recent conversation covering the evolution of policing in the past 40 years, which covers the arc of my career, there…

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Rogue cops should not be recycled from one police department to the next | Roger L Goldman | The Guardian

A blog entry from May 2015. Still true today.

Auburn Hills Police Department

I’ve written about this before.  During all the national discourse about police and how we do our jobs, not enough is being done to give police administrators the tools we need to provide the outcomes our communities need. There is a lot of conversation about body cameras as the solution. Mobile video in police cars was also supposed to be the final solution 15 years ago.

What we actually need is more complex.  Statewide, we need tools that increase the ability to de-license people who should not wear the badge –just like other licensed professions.  There is structure in MCOLES to “police the police” and it should be restored to appropriate funding and released from political interference to do its job. We need to have our training funds restored so that we can train police in realistic ways to be better prepared to meet the challenges.  We need to require…

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Guest Blogger, Donearl Johnson, Public Safety Advisory Committee Member, writes about his thoughts on effective policing and recent events

Posted on Facebook July 8, 2016 – Today was a pretty rough day for me Fam. In fact, it has been pretty rough for a while. I’ve been hurting, angry, sad and simply broken, nevertheless I am resolved even the more.

Disclaimer: Before anyone attempts to discount my or anyone’s emotions by inquiring “what abouDJohnson_profilet black on black violence”, please know that it is a painful reality that I daily wrestle with, but again I am resolved to make a difference in the sphere of my influence concerning this and other issues. Now, I do find it very disturbing that some feel the need to point out other issues to minimize or diminish the effect of something else. Listen, I don’t have the luxury nor the desire to simply point out problems. I have been and remained compelled to let my light shine and to proactively make a difference.

Also, for the record, I am broken anytime there is senseless violence or killings regardless of who the victim is or who the perpetrator may be. I believe that regardless of the package, sin is the main issue and evil is the byproduct. This is not the intention for humanity.

I serve in the capacity as a member of the Public Safety Advisory Committee for the City of Auburn Hills as appointed by the Mayor. I fully understand the importance and the need of effective policing. I have hosted several events with the hopes to continue to build rapport and healthy relations with families and children in our community. I spoke with Chief Doreen Olko in times past about the continued training and accountability that she holds her officers to.

In fact, I had the opportunity to ride along with an officer a couple of days before Christmas last year. I wondered why in the world I chose this time to do it. I could not help but wonder what if we encounter a crazy situation during the ride and I didn’t make it back home; I had to shake the thought of my family losing me, days before Christmas. Before the ride, I toured the office and briefed with the Chief and the Lieutenant. I saw the family pictures as I walked by their offices and cubes and thought about my daughters and wife at home. My wife required that I wear a bullet proof vest even though it wasn’t necessarily protocol for the ride; however Lieutenant Gagnon took me down to the locker room and opened his locker and gave me his own vest. My heart begin to beat heavily against the walls of that vest realizing that there was no crystal ball to tell what I would encounter that day and it dawned on me that this is their daily reality. There is no script or pre-programmed day.

I said this not to justify any unprofessional actions nor to pacify injustice but to provide perspective to those who may find solace in generalizing. Equally, I believe my presence in this committee and the community work that I’m involved with also provide evidence and experience for any officer who may be tempted to generalize as well. Just in case you are wondering, yes, I’ve had my share of being followed and stopped in other cities.

I haven’t cried in years, but today I shed a couple of tears as I called my nephews and other young black men that I know to see how they were doing, to make sure if there was any anger festering, that they could learn to process it and use it in a positive way to effect change. Also, I called in an intentional and somber tone to reiterate the importance of keeping their hands visible at all times, remaining respectful and calm in the event that they are ever stopped to help reduce the chances of escalating a situation.

I almost lost it again as I held my 11 year old daughter tonight who had heard about the recent events. She asked me if it was ok to cry as she poured out her heart for the 4 year old girl who witnessed this and will have to live with this the rest of her life as many of us will move on with “business as usual”. The voice of this little girl echoes in my soul as she attempted to console her mother after hearing her scream saying, mommy it’s ok, I’m here for you.” I couldn’t help to wonder, who will be there for this little girl?

Please note that if you are a “bystander” or simply a spectator know that you just might be part of the problem. If all you do is point out problems to strengthen your point or position, you just might be part of the problem. If you can see issues and not feel compelled or called to action, yes, you just might be part of the problem. Apathy is a subtle but great evil! I encourage you to dig deep and be determined to make a difference. Inquire and partner with others to see how you can be a part of the solution in making this world/our world a better place.

Please know that I am further resolved to continue to engage, enlighten and empower in every capacity of what I do both naturally and spiritually. I am daily committed to live a life that is honoring to God, that will benefit and bless my family, my country and humanity. s/n: I’m not looking for an amen, like, hate, whatever I’ve simply been waiting to exhale ‪#‎ThereYouGo ‪#‎BreatheAgain

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” ― Maya Angelou

Donearl Johnson

My Color is Love – Founder

Guest Blogger, Officer Farah Hilliker Shares Her Visit to a Local Ramadan Celebration


Officer Farah Hilliker, AHPD

A couple of weeks ago I had the honor to represent the Chief at the 4th annual Ramadan dinner at the Detroit Islamic center in Rochester Hills. Multiple elected officials, FBI agents, and different religious clergies attended the educational dinner.RAmadan image

During the dinner the Imam explained what Ramadan is and why Muslims celebrate it. Ramadan is the Ninth month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar. Ramadan is also the holiest month in Islam. Muslims believe that during Ramadan Mohammed received the word of God, which everyone knows as “Quran”

During the blessed Ramadan Muslims all over the world fast from sunrise to sunset. Muslims abstain from food, drinks, or anything of sort. But Ramadan is much more than just fasting. Ramadan is also about purifying the soul, and focusing on the relationship with God.

During the dinner, the Imam opened up the floor to anyone who had any questions about Islam, traditions and politics. The  guests also learned the difference between Islam and radical Islam. The Imam explained why most Muslims are speaking out against ISIS and other radical terrorist groups, and why they don’t represent all Muslims.

David Gelios Special agent in charge of the FBI Detroit division took a minute to speak and expressed his appreciation to the members of the community. Special Agent in Charge Gelios also urged all the guests to remember that unity is very important in the fight against terror, and the importance of community policing.

Hilliker Ramadan woman

Officer Hilliker and her new friend at the dinner.

After all the questions were answered, it was prayer time. Religiously the Imam says “Athan” (call to prayer) the people that are fasting eat a date and drink water or milk. The Imam advised the guests that those who are wanting to pray can begin, and those who are not Muslims are welcome to watch them pray or enjoy the delicious dinner (oh did I mention the delicious dinner?)  To my surprise all the guests chose to watch the prayer. It was a beautiful sight.

After prayer everyone enjoyed the delicious dinner (yes it was amazingly good!) Everyone took the time to visit and enjoy each other’s company.

On July 5th Ramadan came to an end, and Muslims celebrated Eid on the 6th.

So we would like to wish our Muslim neighbors a belated but very happy Eid Mubarak.

No Words to Express….

For the last several days I have been trying to process my thoughts about the last week.  I have to no words to express my deep sorrow at the murder of the five officers in Dalla20160712_171010s last week.  The work of a solitary madman.   And the murder of the sheriff’s deputies in Berrien County yesterday-again the work of a single individual.  And the ones before that, and the ones before that…..We wear the mourning bands on our badges to show our sorrow and unity with other police across the country.

I hope these recent incidents can be a turning point for the whole country.  I am asking our lawmakers at the state and federal levels to do what they should to give us proper tools and funds to improve the ability of communities to attract and hire the police they need.  In Michigan alone, there are 4000 police jobs open.  Recruitment is a national challenge. We need proper tools to weed out those who have not earned the right to wear the badge.  And we need funding to properly hire, train and equip local police who provide the vast majority of policing services to communities across the country.

The national rhetoric would have us all believe that there is some deep divide between communities and their police.  At our local level that is not what we are seeing.  We have spent a long time building and maintaining our community partnerships.  We invest our lives here and share with our community a desire for peace and unity.

I know that the officers have been appreciative of the upsurge in support expressed to them by community members.  Thank you for all of the pizza and snacks people have brought and sent us.  And the messages of support and concern.  We appreciate the many people who have told us that they pray for us everyday.  The officers talk about how people are stopping them on the street just to talk with them and take photos with them.  Officers have a steady diet of people who are violent, angry, distraught, injured, drunk or high–it can be hard to remember that there are people who actually find value in what they do.  So they appreciate it when someone actually sees them and shares a concern for their safety.

We are going about our jobs as usual.  The officers aren’t talking about this much-there is work to do–calls come in on a steady pace.  They focus on the job at hand.  We always practice good tactics in the street to make things as safe as possible.  And we provide the best quality protective equipment that we can.  And we have well qualified supervisors to make sound decisions in the street in tense and challenging situations.

We all know that it is a dangerous world.   And we accept it.

If you need us, we are here.


Here are some ideas for a stress free drive on your holiday weekend

We are all looking forward to a fun holiday weekend, I know I am.  One concern we share with you is about traffic.  Last weekend we heard from folks who got caught up in trafficRelated image northbound on I-75 north of University to Joslyn when MDOT took 4 lanes to 1 lane  for repairs.  It was complicated by the roadwork on M-24.

Here is what I suggest (and it is what I actually do when traveling):  Plan your trip.  Even local trips.

There are several ways you can do that:

  1.  Listen to AM radio – WWJ broadcasts traffic updates “on the 8’s.”  We know they are on our social media accounts so they are getting up to the minute reports about traffic status–closed roads, road re-opens, traffic jams.
  2. Use Google Maps – if you are a smart phone user, go to Google maps and using the menu in the upper left corner highlight “traffic.”  Your map will show you roads highlighted with red, yellow and green to tell you where the traffic problems are, how  long they are and how bad they are with red being totally stopped or barely moving.  I use this to project traffic on my drive wherever I am in the US.  I have found it to be very timely and accurate.  Not sure how they do it but it works very well.
  3. Use WAZE – another free smart phone app.  I learned this one from Lieutenants Gagnon and Miarka.  It is a community of users who report traffic problems, how far ahead and to some extent what kind.  It requires very little action on your part so that you won’t contribute to distracted driving and create the crash.  The app tells you if there are police ahead and whether they are visible or not. (Will you drive better if you think we are up ahead?)   This application will also talk to you so you can keep your eyes on the road.
  4. Use MiDrive – a free app for smart phones from the Michigan Department of Transportation.  MiDrive can show you construction zones, traffic speeds (so you will know if it is really slow), crashes and other hazards.  The really cool thing about it is that you can also access the traffic cameras AKA the “jam cams” – actually the same ones used by the traffic reporters.  When you open the site it is a very large interactive map of the entire state.  You can zoom into the map and you’ll see a little camera icon – click on that to open a current picture of that area of freeway.  I use them frequently to get a look at what is going on.
  5. Join NIXLE our free social media site for all traffic news.  If you don’t live in Auburn Hills check on the site for your community.  Many report all kinds of police activity that you might want to know about including traffic.  We regularly report traffic 24 hours daily.
  6. AHPD Facebook &  Twitter @AHPOLICE are also good sources for traffic information in and through our town.  We post up to the minute information.

I’m not advocating that you should be using your smart phone while driving.  I DO suggest that you plan your route ahead of time. If you meet an unexpected problem check it when you are stopped or have a passenger check it so you can decide whether to change routes or wait it out.  We never suggest going up the ramps the wrong way, driving in construction lanes (BIG, BIG fines for that), speeding along on the shoulder of the road or other crazy and dangerous behaviors.

Have a great weekend and be safe out there.  Remember to wear your seat belt, keep your child in the back seat in a safety seat and don’t drink and drive.  


We are secure – and we are excited about it!

Today was a really great day for us.

Today’s blog is about a part of policing that normally isn’t very exciting.  But it is important to us and to you.  Like most organizations these days our records contain big data and we link to state and federal criminal justice big data too.  I know you’ve read about and maybe have been affected by big hacks like Target, Home Depot, even the IRS got hacked.  And your personal information is out there in cyberworld.

We know our data is sensitive and we know it is our responsibility to guard it properly and see that it is used lawfully.  But even we, who are so very careful, swallowed hard when we got the following email message in May:

Dear Ms. Gina Thomas,

The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division will conduct a Criminal Justice Information Technology Security Audit of the Auburn Hills Police Department on Tuesday, June 28, 2016, at 9:00 AM.  CJIS Division staff will evaluate compliance with applicable policy requirements associated with access to and use of CJIS systems and data.

In preparation for the audit, please complete and return the attached documents to me by Friday, June 17, 2016.  Questions regarding the audit should be directed to me at the above listed email address or by phone.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation throughout the audit process.

Mr. Mark Fluharty

IT Specialist

Federal Bureau of Investigation

CJIS Audit Unit

So our team went to work.  They reviewed our processes, answered the pre-audit questions, examined the newest requirements and made sure we were in compliance.  They poked us, prodded us, tested us across all of our personnel to get us ready.  Led by our Terminal Agency Coordinator, Police Service Officer Gina Thomas they kept all of us on task with the moving pieces and parts to meet the deadlines. One of the challenges is the frequency of change in this area–the rules and processes change all the time.

Today was audit day.  Auditors were here at 0900 hrs and at 1030 hrs announced that they were done.  Done? I expected them to be on this most of the day.  So I met with the team and the auditors for their report.

They told us that we had a perfect audit –no items of concern — at all.  They had never seen that before.  They said that they didn’t have a preformatted letter to send us with results because the letters always note what improvements must be made.  And we had none.  (Actually he seemed a little uncomfortable – as though he didn’t know what to say to us, exactly.)

I was probably the least surprised person in the room.  I know the team, how careful and thorough they are so I was confident despite all their worrying and hand-wringing. (They do that BECAUSE  they take it so seriously).

We took a photo with the auditors to mark the occasion and after they left it was high-fives all around.  Congratulations to our team who did an excellent job on an important function of our agency!

FBI audit team

Left to right: Ryan Mainz, Michigan State Police CJIS Tech Specialist, Katherine O’Shesky, MSP Auditor, Mark Fluharty, FBI IT Security Audit Unit, Lt Jill McDonnell, Me, PSO Gina Thomas, PSO Chuck Marsh, Auburn Hills IT Specialist Caleb Purdy

I hope the other 13 Michigan agencies being audited had as good of a day as we did!