May 25, 2019
The Fort Oglethorpe Police Department has reached an agreement with a Missouri company to properly destroy a collection of firearms.
On March 11, Fort Oglethorpe Police Chief Mike Helton explained the endeavor to the City Council, which would involve a more efficient and transparent disposal process through the partnership with Gunbusters LLC.
"Our department joined the International Association of Property and Evidence last year," Helton said. "It's the highest level of property and evidence persons that we know out there in law enforcement that we've become aware of at all."
Helton said officers who've participated in the property and evidence training learned of the Gunbusters company based in Chesterfield, MO.
"It's called Gunbusters Firearms Pulverizer," Helton said. "What they do for departments, if they choose to use their services is, at no charge to the departments, they'll take any firearms that are eligible to be destroyed. We've now gone through the legal steps and we've narrowed down a list of 35 firearms."
Helton said the process would allow the department to have a second set of eyes on its process.
"This company merely documents that whole procedure," Helton said. "What we're doing we believe is adding a layer of integrity (to the process). Departments can take these guns and destroy them ourselves; we could take them over to our city shop and cut them up and do various things, but what we believe this does is bring a third party in that videotapes and documents this from A to Z for us and adds a separate layer of integrity that we would like to have in place."
Helton said the only benefit Gunbusters gets out of the deal is they're possibly able to salvage a few parts from some of the guns and they get the scrap from it.
"We get the final evidence (of the destroying) to keep in our files," Helton said. "Each one of these guns has either been proven to be dysfunctional, they've been turned in by somebody else where someone has died and they no longer want the guns, or they've be confiscated from criminals."
Helton says all the weapons on the destroy list were tested for their connection to open investigations before being earmarked for destruction.
"We didn't come up with any hits, but we wanted to be thorough before we considered destroying the firearms," Helton said. "If we could help close a case, we wanted to do that."
Helton added that when all the weapons were tested and evaluated, one returned stolen out of Dade County and was subsequently returned to the owner.
Helton added that reselling some of the weapons isn't a great option either.
"We do not feel safe in trying to sell these because we don't know the condition of them frankly," Helton said. "Also, this is only a one-time agreement; it has to be approved every time we want to do this."
During the meeting, the board unanimously approved the agreement, and likewise approved Helton's request for a memorandum of understanding between the city and the Sexual Assault Victim's Advocacy Center.
"This is a recommendation from our office that we approve another yearly agreement with the Sexual Assault Victim's Advocacy Center," Helton said. "There's no change from last year or the years prior, it's just continuing the service that we provide them; we appoint victim's to resources through this center and people in three counties in this region and each city participates in sending victims to this service. It does require a yearly agreement to help them obtain grant funds."
Adam Cook is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He has been a reporter since 2009.