Oakland Co teaches active shooter training for religious leaders

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Imagining an active shooter in a place of worship isn't easy for anyone.

But a class on Tuesday isn't about scaring anyone it's about preparing them for the unthinkable. 

"It used to be church was a sacred place but now it's not," said Deacon Sam Nixon, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church of Pontiac.

As we've seen, shooters in places of worship happen. Most recently in Sutherland Springs, Texas where a man opened fire inside of a Baptist Church during Sunday services killing 26 people and injuring 20 more.

"It's not something that you can't say will never happen here," said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard. "Because it happens in great communities."

It is incidents like this that launched Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard to develop a class to arm religious leaders with knowledge.

"Having a plan can be a very smart thing," Bouchard said. "Whether it is at home, a house of worship, or whether it is the schools."

The class was scheduled before the Florida school shooting earlier this month but says it's a big reason why this class was packed with more than 100 people Tuesday afternoon.

"It is a factor of reality and we cannot bury our heads in the sand because we are a house of worship or religious affiliation - nobody's safe," said Deborah Robitaille.

Deborah Robitaille is the Director of Administration at Cavalry Lutheran Church Clarkston, Pontiac & White Lake.

They've recently put together a safety team and are beefing up security. 

"Extra cameras, slide cards so we know who is in and who is out," she said.

With the new team in place, and learning from the professionals, she says they're working to find a fine line between interrupting services and keeping everyone secure. 

"Their primary concern is that we are still open to people because we want to serve the community - but to still be safe," Robitaille said.

Because of the demand for this class, Sheriff Bouchard is holding another class on March 8th. There is still space if you are interested and your place of worship is in Oakland County.

Email Tyler Bettelon at bettelont@oakgov.com