Law enforcement agencies sell seized weapons at auction
BY JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Monday, February 04, 2013
2/04/13 at 7:05 AM
Despite an ongoing national discussion on the availability of guns, many law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma and elsewhere supplement their budgets through sales of seized weapons - various firearms often taken off the street from criminals.
Once they have been used as evidence, the seized weapons may either get melted down - a policy the Tulsa Police Department has observed for more than a decade - or they are sold, re-entering the public.
The District 27 Drug Task Force, which covers Wagoner, Cherokee, Adair and Sequoyah Counties, recently held a public auction of about 100 guns, said District 27 Assistant District Attorney Tony Evans.
"Every dime goes back into the office for crime fighting," Evans said.
Including weapons, automobiles and other seized items, the sale late last month brought in about $60,000, he said. The funds go into the agency's general fund and pay for things such as fuel and running the office.
"Guns were going for a little higher this time," Evans said. "Because of the scare, people think guns are going to be taken away from them."
Evans said he wasn't aware of any current discussion to change the agency's policy.
Last week, an Okfuskee County courtroom heard testimony about how a Baltimore Police Department service weapon, never known to have been used in any previous crime, made its way through gun dealers and allegedly into the hands of Kevin Sweat.
Sweat is charged with using the Glock 22 .40-caliber gun, formerly used by several law enforcement officers, to kill Skyla Whitaker and Taylor Paschal-Placker on a rural Okfuskee County road in 2008.
First used in 2001 in Baltimore, the weapon was refurbished by Glock and sent to a gun dealer in Okemah. It then was purchased by a local sheriff's deputy, traded to an Okfuskee County reserve deputy, sold to a local police officer, who then sold the gun to Sweat, according to court testimony.
In the mid-1990s, Tulsa police adopted a policy of melting down seized weapons, said Tulsa Police Department spokesman Leland Ashley.
"Out of concern for the citizens of Tulsa, we don't want to put weapons back into circulation," Ashley said.
All seized weapons are melted down with the exception of weapons that are established as stolen. Those are returned to their rightful owners, if possible, Ashley said.
However, the policy on seized weapons does not extend to service weapons. The Tulsa Police Department recently began issuing new service weapons and officers are trading in their previous sidearms to a distributor to resell to the public.
Tulsa police officers are, however, given first option to buy back their former sidearm.
Like the District 27 Drug Task Force, the Tulsa County Sheriff's Department auctions seized weapons but limits auctions to licensed gun dealers, said Tulsa County Sheriff's Maj. Shannon Clark.
Clark said the Sheriff's Department stopped auctioning to the public.
"We don't do that anymore so that we're not turning them over to individuals," Clark said.
Many local and regional law enforcement agencies auction seized weapons with a few restrictions, said Andrew Young, public information officer for the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives Dallas Field Division, which has jurisdiction over Oklahoma.
"It happens quite a bit," Young said. "They have a lot of them (guns)."
Young said he is specifically not allowed to quantify the number of seized weapons the ATF monitors.
One of the only restrictions on agencies reselling seized weapons is that law enforcement agencies destroy any seized firearm that has had its serial number removed, Young said.
Evans said the District 27 Drug Task Force Auction is public, but all buyers have to submit to a background check and must be in-state residents.
"We don't want the guns to end up back in criminals' hands," Evans said. "Clearly we can't control them once we've sold them, but ... I don't think we sold anything that had a significantly high-capacity" magazine.
Evans said his office removed several guns on the day of the auction because they were what "people would consider assault weapons."
In addition to making purchasers submit to a background check, Evans said, detailed records are kept of all sales and buyers at the public auctions.
Original Print Headline: Funds from guns
Jarrel Wade 918-581-8367
A drug task force agent holds up a Glock 27 .40 caliber subcompact handgun for bidders to see at an auction of seized cars, guns and other items by the District Attorney's 27 Drug Task Force, held at the Sequoyah County Fairgrounds in Sallisaw. Approximately 100 rifles, shotguns and handguns seized from criminals were sold at the auction. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World
Rifles, shotguns and handguns, seized from criminals under asset forfeiture laws, are arrayed on tables before being auctioned to the public at the Sequoyah County Fairgrounds in Sallisaw. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World
Drug task force officer Chris Goforth oversees some of the handguns, rifles and shotguns seized from criminals under asset forfeiture laws right before they are auctioned to the public at the Sequoyah County Fairgrounds in Sallisaw. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World