COUNTY SHERIFF

October 5, 2020

 

VINCENT GREGORY
DEMOCRAT

Gregory lives in Lathrup Village and has a degree in criminal justice from Madonna University. He has been a member of the Wayne County Sheriff Department, Oakland County Commissioner, State Representative and State Senator.

ENFORCING GOVERNOR'S ORDERS

During the current pandemic crisis, there are a half dozen county sheriff's in the state who have announced they would not be enforcing the governor's executive orders relative to stay-at-home, social distancing, and business closures. Despite the fact that the oath of office for sheriff includes a promise to uphold the Michigan Constitution, several of these sheriffs have stated that they don't feel they answer to the governor and therefore would not be enforcing her executive orders, which have been upheld by the state attorney general and now the courts. As sheriff, would you enforce executive orders from the governor?


Yes, as the Oakland County Sheriff, I would enforce executive orders from the governor relating to the Covid-19 Pandemic. The sheriffs who have declared that they won't comply with the governor's executive orders have a duty to respect and obey the law; they do not have the luxury to select the laws that they will enforce versus those that they choose to ignore. The sheriffs who have publicly declared that they will not enforce the governor’s executive orders have in essence given the citizens in their counties permission to defy the governor's orders as well. This is not the message that the top law enforcement officer in the county should send to citizens, especially when we are literally in the middle of a battle between life and death and the governor's orders are in place to protect and save lives.

OAKLAND JAIL CONDITIONS

A lawsuit on behalf of prisoners was filed in federal court, claiming that the sheriff has not adequately provided COVID-19 safeguards for prisoners. The federal judge has basically agreed with the plaintiffs and has called for changes plus a list of prisoners and their criminal history for possible release during the coronavirus crisis. Are you familiar with Oakland County Jail conditions and should more have been done in terms of prisoner protection from possible virus infection? Should there have been a more aggressive program of releasing prisoners to avoid spreading the virus?


I learned about the lawsuit through researching and reading various reports. During my career as a deputy, I witnessed the efforts of attorneys on behalf of their clients who were inmates and grieved the conditions of the jail. During that time, I know for a fact that the attorneys worked diligently to secure remedies on behalf of their clients and filing lawsuits was generally a last resort resolution when they failed to reach an acceptable solution. The status of the court case against the Oakland County Jail and the restraining order that was implemented serves as evidence that the current Oakland County Sheriff failed to respond to the concerns of the inmates in a manner that would ensure that inmates were protected from the spread of Covid-19.

PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT

Oakland County is getting a small taste of the progressive prosecutor movement in the August primary for prosecutor, which nationally includes diversion sentencing programs rather than jail time for some crimes, lessened bail amounts or no bail amounts rather than jail time until trial, and other changes to the current system. Some say this movement will ultimately change the culture of law enforcement, moving away from hard-handed enforcement. Do you think this will impact the law enforcement part of the criminal justice equation? Is this good or bad?


The job of the Sheriff is to protect and serve the public. Progressive prosecutors, who push for more diversion programs upon sentencing, decreases in bail amounts or no bail at all, instead of the accused being confined in jail until the time of their trial, are on the path to impacting law enforcement in a positive way and one that ensures that all citizens who are accused of committing crimes receive treatment that is fair and equitable. As a country, we are moving away from hard-handed law enforcement and law enforcement professionals must adapt to and embrace these changes in order to be recognized as an ally to communities that we serve.

PROBLEM OFFICER REGISTRY

The FBI has attempted to create a national registry of problem law enforcement officers, but not all departments report such information. Should there be a state and/or national requirement to report law enforcement officers who have been fired for problem behavior, such as excessive use of force, to prevent them from just moving from department to department? Please explain.


I believe that there should be a national registry for reporting law enforcement officers who have been fired for problem behavior. If the federal government is not willing to commit to a registry, it is my hope that a registry would be implemented at the state level here in Michigan.  Further, I believe that officers found guilty of excessive force, should face a hearing to determine if they are eligible to keep their law enforcement certification. In the case of a severe offense, an officer should lose their certification indefinitely.

OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTINGS

Should an outside independent investigator be automatically appointed in cases of police-involved shootings and should the results of that investigation always be made public? Please explain.


I believe an outside independent investigator should be appointed for the review of all police-involved shootings. This will add a layer of transparency which is important in building public trust. While all cases may not seem to merit a review, to investigate some while not investigating others would continue to create questions of transparency and doubt. Therefore, I believe that all police-involved shootings should require an independent investigation. Following a thorough investigation, the results should be made public if the shooting is found to be justified. If the officer is found to have been in violation of a law or department rule or regulation, the results should be held internally. These findings should be held internally until a trial or hearing occurs, at which time a determination as to the officers guilt or innocence is made. Then the results can be made public.

LAW ENFORCEMENT REFORM

State legislators and members of the administration are proposing a number of reforms to guide the behavior of officers when interacting with the public. What reforms, if any, do you think need to be codified in law.


As a society, we are asking for more transparency as it pertains to law enforcement. This request for transparency has prompted change among police departments across the country. As change continues to evolve, I would like to continue monitoring the progress before addressing any thoughts on changing laws. However, I do believe that standardized criminal justice collection data and reporting in Michigan, is an area that needs to be included in the law.

IMPROVEMENTS NEEDED

What improvements do you feel are needed in the county sheriff’s department and how would you achieve these?


Transparency: Oakland County sheriff’s are not required to wear body cams. This makes it difficult to ascertain the sequence of events when there are questions regarding interactions between officers and citizens. In an effort to increase transparency, I would require officers to wear body cams at all times. As a result, when there is a question or complaint regarding officer conduct, an explanation of the department procedures that were followed can be provided in a timely manner. This will provide clarity as to whether the officer was in compliance. In situations where the officer was not in compliance with department procedures, appropriate measures can be taken to address the infraction and hold the officer accountable for the action. Community Policing: Increasing the presence of officers in the community will result in a positive relationship between residents and officers. When officers are visible and interact with residents, trust is established. Additionally, officers will have a vested interest and concern for the citizens that they serve because they have connected with the residents. Equal Opportunity: I would promote a woman to the rank of captain. After 20 years, there are still no women serving in this capacity.

WHY VOTE FOR YOU

Tell us why voters should select you rather than one of your opponents?


Voters should elect me as the next Oakland County Sheriff because I have a history of leadership experience that has placed me at the table in a position to negotiate and bring about change on the state and county level as an elected official and within law enforcement as the leader of the sheriff's deputy union. A few of my accomplishments include: Lobbying and securing funding for secondary roads so that the sheriff’s departments across the state could increase their support of the local police departments; as a county commissioner I was instrumental in keeping Catalpa Oaks a green space instead of becoming another area of condos; as a State Representative, streamlining the absentee voting process for overseas service members; and as a State Senator, being a part of a subcommittee for expanding Medicaid to 600,000 more Michigan residents. I have a history of getting things done.

 

 

MICHAEL BOUCHARD
REPUBLICAN
 
Bouchard has been Oakland County Sheriff since 1999; and is currently vice president, government affairs, Major County Sheriffs of America. Prior to becoming sheriff, he was a state Senator from 1991-1999, and Majority Floor Leader 1998-1999. He served in the Michigan state House of Representatives, 1990-1991, and on the Beverly Hills Village Council, 1986-1990. He has a degree in criminal justice and police administration from Michigan State University.

ENFORCING GOVERNOR'S ORDERS
 
While it’s true Sheriffs are independent and don’t take orders from any elected official, this is a misunderstood issue. Detroit police don’t respond to governor’s order complaints but refer them to the health division. Macomb County doesn’t respond and refers them to the state. During this pandemic, we’ve worked hard at keeping our residents safe. We respond to all complaints of a possible violation of orders. This ensures there is no escalating argument. A deputy investigates the complaint and over 92 percent of the complaints have been unfounded. Since there have been many orders from both the governor and the county, often times people are not even aware there was a new order. Frankly, many have quit reading the news and turned off the television because they find it too anxiety provoking. Suicides and depression are up dramatically. For the small numbers left, if there is a violation, a report is forwarded to the health division. We’ve found most people were more than willing to comply with the orders when provided additional information. When our residents are stressed regarding schooling, employment, and their health, the sheriff’s office has attempted to be a source of information and guidance during these challenging moments.
 
OAKLAND JAIL CONDITIONS
 
First, the TRO which was filed in federal court was dismissed by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and was deemed unfounded and unnecessary. Our discussions about COVID protocols in the jails began before the pandemic and included a proactive approach of sending lists of inmates to judges who we deemed to be non-violent and/or were considered to be medically vulnerable. Judges have to make the determination as to whether or not they choose to release. Hundreds were released. Releasing inmates from jail or modifying their sentences is not legally under the sheriff’s authority.  This is why we proactively asked the courts. The lawsuit alleged people were in immediate jeopardy of dying. Now, months after the lawsuit was dismissed, the facts are even more clear.  Not one inmate in the Oakland County Jail died and not one was hospitalized.  The state has had over 68 inmates die with many more hospitalized. We have set the gold standard and the results confirm this. We once again received full accreditation by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. This means all correctional facilities under the direction of the Oakland County Sheriff have met all the requirements under NCCHC’s Standards for Health Services.
 
PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT

Oakland County has been implementing alternatives to incarceration for many years. We have to look at each person individually and determine who should be in jail. To boil it down, from my perspective, we need to utilize jail for those who we are scared of, not for who we are mad at. I have been active in the legislature with criminal justice reform and sought the legislation which was ultimately passed to let jails utilize compassionate release and medical probation for inmates who have serious medical issues or are near end of life. There are many alternatives to placing someone in jail, but we must keep public safety and our communities’ interest at the heart of the conversation. When I became the sheriff, we had an average daily inmate population of 2,200. There were discussions of building a larger jail. Through aggressive programming changes and working with our judges to keep more non-violent offenders out of jail, this population number dropped to between 1,200-1,300 in the following years. We have closed jails and correctional facilities and have led the movement for years on developing standards and policy which focuses on who truly needs to be in jail.

PROBLEM OFFICER REGISTRY
 
Actually, the FBI created a National Use of Force list for agencies, not a problematic officers list. I was one of the national leaders on that and we voluntarily contributed our information.  As to the idea of creating a registry, accountability is key to strengthening and maintaining the trust of citizens with law enforcement. Those who have been employees of the sheriff’s office who have been found guilty of misconduct, have been fired and held accountable for their actions. I sought and helped to pass the ‘wandering officer’ legislation as well, which allows agencies to disclose employee discipline records to outside agencies who are doing background checks on potential new hires. This stops those from going from agency to agency and having egregious use of force or disciplinary problems. A national database would support the Michigan statute by preventing someone from moving from state to state. As the vice president in charge of government affairs for Major County Sheriffs of America, we have been actively engaged in this proposed legislation and are working to fine tune it with members of Congress. The professionals in our ranks want to do all we can to remove those that do not belong there.
 
OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTINGS
 
We have a separate special investigation unit that investigates police complaints as well as police shootings. I actually have a proposal to take that even a step further by creating a regional investigative team for police shootings. We present all officer involved shootings to the prosecutor and, of course, the results of the investigation should be made public. 
 
 LAW ENFORCEMENT REFORM

I have been pushing for years a whitepaper with proposals I wrote called Policing 2.0. It addresses implementing better hiring practices and how to greatly increase continuous real-world training.  Better training and better hiring leads to better outcomes. It should include training on diversity, bias, ethics, and vulnerable populations to name a few. However, in regard to legislating how to interact with the public, one model will not fit all. The sheriff’s office directly patrols 15 communities under a contract, and they all are diverse and have their own unique personalities. Agencies need to respond to the needs and wishes of their communities in the manner appropriate for the residents of that community. What makes sense in Birmingham may not make sense on Mackinac Island. Basic best practices make sense everywhere. For example, we have had a ban on chokeholds since I’ve been the sheriff and have had a duty to intervene by each individual when they see or hear misconduct for decades. Also, if the legislature wants to help, fund efforts to recruit and hire a more diverse group of individuals in law enforcement. That also will help make better police agencies.
 
IMPROVEMENTS NEEDED

The sheriff’s office needs a new state-of-the-art training center and an emergency operations center (dispatch) very soon. As I mentioned before, better training leads to better outcomes and while we already require mandatory training every Wednesday, we need better technology and infrastructure to support this. We train as much or more than any agency in the state, but the infrastructure is woefully old. As an example, our shooting range built in the 1970s is extremely outdated and was built when only 150 deputies needed to qualify. Now, over 900 use this range each month to qualify and it does not match best practice training opportunities. Further, we have outgrown our emergency operations center which not only serves as the primary answering point for many police, fire, and EMS entities, but we serve as the backup answering point for all Oakland County agencies and beyond. It does not physically meet recommended federal guidelines and with technology evolving rapidly, including a new radio system which is being implemented, the time is now for the county to invest into both of these essential and critical parts of county operations and public safety.

WHY VOTE FOR YOU

 In my over 20 years as the Oakland County Sheriff, I’ve strived to be the first to evolve and invest in what is needed for our changing environment. We’re a leader nationally on all fronts. As an example, we were the first dispatch center to implement Text to 911, allowing our residents another option to seek help in emergencies. My experience in the legislature and continued work in Lansing and DC on reforms which are being suggested for law enforcement have been policies I have touted and when legally allowed, implemented for years. Sadly, many proposals have fallen on deaf ears. There is a way to have both police accountability and reform, but at the same time, uphold and support those who put their lives on the line every day who do the right thing. We can have both. I will continue to make sure that Oakland County remains at the forefront of the best training, best technology, best policies, and best outcomes for all residents. As a result of our team’s success, I have been named National Sheriff of the Year (the only one ever from Michigan) and Michigan Sheriffs’ Association Distinguished Sheriff. I ask for your continued support.

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