Farmington public safety director expresses gratitude for rifle shield donations

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published June 14, 2024

 The Farmington Public Safety Department now has rifle shields at its disposal.

The Farmington Public Safety Department now has rifle shields at its disposal.

Photo provided by the city of Farmington


FARMINGTON — Farmington Public Safety Director Bob Houhanisin recently reflected on an inquiry from a local resident.

“A few months ago, John Tryon approached our department … and asked us what we could do to prevent mass-casualty incidents like Uvalde,” Houhanisin said.

Approximately two years ago, a former student at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, fatally shot 19 students and two teachers, with 17 others surviving injuries.

Houhanisin let Tryon know about equipment that the department was lacking.

“I informed him that at that time, we didn’t have any rifle-range shields,” Houhanisin said. “We had a shield that would stop pistol rounds, but we didn’t have a shield that would stop rifle rounds. So he did some research on what it would cost to facilitate the department to get one of those, and he decided to make the purchase by him and his wife.”

Although Tryon is a Farmington Hills resident, he said that his wife grew up in Farmington.

It is his aspiration for every patrol car in Farmington to eventually be equipped with a rifle shield.

“That would be a nice thing for the community, (if) the community stepped up and decided to help any way they can,” said Tryon, who is a financial advisor. “There’s something we can do. … I’m glad that they’re protected.”

Tryon’s gesture helped lead to the purchase of two additional rifle shields, with one of the purchases being credited to an on-call firefighter with the Farmington Public Safety Department, John Dresden, along with his wife, and the other to the Farmington Xemplar Club, which, according to its website, is a nonprofit charitable foundation that serves families, seniors and youth in Farmington and Farmington Hills.

In total, the Farmington Public Safety received three rifle shields, which Houhanisin estimated cost $6,400 apiece.

He said one of them is for a high school resource officer, and the other two are placed in patrol cars.

“So if there’s an incident, we can respond quickly and have those shields there to protect them and their team,” Houhanisin said.

Houhanisin explained the type of situations that may call for their use.

“Any type of firearm incident,” he said. “If there was an active assailant in a school, if there was an active assailant in a business, if there was a barricaded subject in a home where we needed to get a victim out, where we didn’t have time to wait for a team to be established. That officer can use that shield to protect them to get into a situation and get somebody out – protect them and take somebody into custody.”

Farmington Public Safety Department officers attended rifle shield training to become proficient in utilizing the new equipment.

William Wood, who along with being the fire marshal for the Farmington Public Safety Department also works road patrol, said that he is also a rifle and pistol range instructor.

After receiving training on how to use a rifle shield, he helped train other personnel.

According to Wood, having the shields is “outstanding.”

“It’s such an asset,” Wood said. “(It) protects us and it helps us protect others in dangerous situations. … Obviously, rifles are used sometimes in violent acts, and it’s good to be prepared for that. … If we’re going to be running into a … life or death situation, involving firearms, especially, we want all the protection we can get.”

Wood went through a two-day training period to learn how to effectively use the shield at a facility in Shelby Township.

Houhanisin discussed some of the aspects involved with training.

“We actually practice shooting from behind the shield, from behind that cover,” he said. “And then we practice on how we most effectively use that shield to protect not just the person holding it, but the whole team behind it. … We’ve made that part of our annual training and practice, because you need practice using them to be effective.”

There are multiple facets involved with learning how to use a shield properly, including learning how to operate a firearm while deploying one.

Wood discussed how training has been going with Farming Public Safety Department personnel.

“Training’s been going pretty well,” he said. “People are receptive.They recognize it as a very useful piece of gear for preserving their safety and those that we’re trying to protect.”

Houhanisin said that Farmington Public Safety Department officers “loved’ the training.

“They like that our residents are taking a proactive approach to helping protect them,” he said. “They adapted pretty quickly to it.”

In regard to not having the equipment sooner, Houhanisin said that funding was the issue.

“And once somebody asked us, what do we need, that’s what we need right now, right away,” he said.

Although Houhanisin didn’t recall any situations in Farmington that would call for rifle shields, he added that, “I believe in preparation – that we prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”

Having residents who willingly stepped up and helped supply the Farmington Public Safety Department with valuable equipment is not something that Houhanisin is likely to forget anytime soon.

“We’re extremely grateful for the donation,” he said. “It means that our officers are safe and we can do our job safely to protect the residents. … Now I can take a little breath of fresh air … that we can keep our officers safe from rifle rounds, and we can protect our community with the shields.”