Saturday, December 18, 2010

What Should DPD Do With The Guns That It Buys From Citizens?

Two days ago, the Detroit Police Department (DPD) bought 300 firearms from area residents on a "no questions asked basis" in a crime-fighting effort they claim will reduce violent crime. While the underlying premise of DPD's gun buying event has been at best deemed as questionable by knowledgeable authorities such as the US Federal Government, the focus of this post is to examine what DPD should do with the firearms now that they have them in their possession.

Since DPD bought the firearms without asking any questions of the sellers, it is reasonable to assume that some of them were stolen from their lawful owners. Thus, in at least my humble opinion, DPD has an absolute duty to return those firearms, that were stolen, to their owners. In the case of recovered handguns, which by law must be registered, it should be a relatively simple task to perform.

However, despite what many reasonable people would expect DPD to do with the recovered firearms - return them to their legal owners, DPD has publicly stated contrary intentions with respect to the guns. Through published media accounts after their gun buying event this past September and in the aftermath of the gun buy-back two days ago, DPD has stated that every firearm turned in to them would be destroyed.

On the date of the last DPD gun buying event, December 16th, I attended the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners (BOPC) meeting at DPD Headquarters to get a clarification of their official policy on the disposition of firearms that they buy from citizens.

When the BOPC meeting reached the point where they allow public comments, I approached the podium and proceeded to explain to the BOPC that DPD's approach to recovered firearms should be the same as recovered automobiles; an attempt should be made to find the owner. A DPD officer was then summoned to the podium to clarify DPD's policy. She stated to the BOPC that there is an attempt by DPD to contact the owners of the recovered firearms.

The very next day, published media accounts appeared that featured quotes by DPD Chief Ralph Godbee in which he was quoted as saying, "every gun turned in will be destroyed and is one less gun that could potentially be stolen if there is a home invasion." Thus, there is a contradiction between what the DPD Chief said publicly in the media and what his staff had reported the previous day to BOPC.

There is an apparent need for transparency in this process. There is not a clear and consistent message being delivered by DPD on this matter. As such, I propose that DPD publicly publishes identifying information for every firearm that it buys from the public: firearm type, manufacturer, model number, and serial number.

That identifying information should be publicly displayed on the Internet, within a determined period of time after a gun buying event for specified duration. In addition, information that details how owners can retrieve their property should also be published. Further, DPD's policy on seizing and destroying any unclaimed property, after a specified period of time, should also be disclosed.

Transparency in government is good and it removes any misunderstandings that may arise due to an inconsistent message being delivered by different individuals within the DPD organization.

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