When people go through their attics, basements or garages to ease some of the clutter, they might end up parting with childhood keepsakes, possibly selling stacks of old comic books or baseball cards for tidy sums.
It's the same idea with the Tinley Park Police Department and its storage space. Except the department's mementos pack a bit more pop than a copy of Giant-Size X-Men No. 1 or a Frank Thomas rookie card.
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The police department wants to sell a cache of six machine guns it owns and use that profit for needed equipment. The firearms—four Vietnam-era, Colt M-16s and two Thompson "Tommy gun" submachine guns—are coveted by collectors and could go for thousands of dollars on the open market, said Chief Steve Neubauer.
"They're in fine shape. We got them and never used them," Neubauer said of the vintage machine guns that currently sit in a room, double-locked, at the police station.
"There's no practical police use for them [now]," he added. "We have other weapons we use."
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The department acquired the machine guns through a U.S. government exchange program in the 1960s, but they were never used in the field, Neubauer said. Even though they're locked away, the department cleans and maintains them to keep them in the best shape possible, the chief added.
But Neubauer said these items could be of more use to the department—and the village—as a source of extra revenue instead of simply a piece of history. The department has been working for more than a year to take care of the paperwork and other details to get the weapons ready for sale, he said.
This month, Neubauer submitted a proposal to the Tinley Park Village Board to allow a reputable auction house to sell the weapons and then let the police department use the money earned from the sale. According to the proposal, the Rock Island Auction Company said it would put the firearms up for auction, which could bring in an estimated $70,400 for all six machine guns.
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Unlike firearms confiscated in crimes or other police business, the department is free to sell these machine guns because it owns them, Neubauer said.
"We come up with all kinds of weapons all the time, and we destroy those," he added.
Normally, the money from the sale of surplus items from village departments goes into the general fund. But because this is a special circumstance, Neubauer is asking for a one-time exemption that would let the police department to receive the revenue directly.
"This is a unique situation; this is not going to be a repeated situation. They're not going to keep finding all kinds of treasure troves under the department, and for that reason, I think it's a good way to plug some budget holes," said Trustee Brian Maher at the Village Board's mid-year budget review meeting Tuesday, Nov. 27, where trustees discussed the proposal.
According to the original proposal, some of the items to be purchased with the money from a possible sale include:
- a 2012 Ford Explorer for the newly reactivated tactical unit: $27,075
- 13 red-and-blue LED light bars to replace the current light bars on patrol vehicles that are beginning to fail and are obsolete: $3,984
- creating a department honor guard of six officers for funerals, as well as other official village and police functions: $6,000
While supportive of the overall idea of the money going to the department, some trustees were concerned about funding an honor guard that could rack up costs in the future, and that item has been removed from the proposal, said Village Manager Scott Niehaus.
The village also is looking at the possibility of keeping at least one of the machine guns for historic purposes and letting the police department, the Tinley Park Historical Society or another suitable organization store it, Niehaus added.
"That's a beautiful piece of history. It's just unique to have them," Village Clerk Patrick Rea said at Tuesday's meeting. "I would hope [the police department] would think about keeping one."
And does Neubauer, who says he's not a gun collector, have the same sentimental attachment to these machine guns?
"Nope. They sit in a locked room," he said. "It's just one of those unusual issues of what do you do with them. … We could keep them in the armory, sell them at an appropriate auction or destroy them. They do have a high value of collectibility and a high value to the village."
What's the Next Step?
Before the weapons can go to auction, the board needs to adopt an ordinance declaring the firearms as surplus, Niehaus said. Traditionally, the board handles getting rid of surplus equipment and property once a year, usually during the summer, Niehaus said. But because this is a special circumstance, the board will address it at a meeting as soon as all the details are worked out, he added.
The earliest that the proposal would come before the board for final approval would be in January, Niehaus said, adding that any money from the sale of the firearms will be used by April 30, the end of the village's fiscal year.
If there is any money remaining after the department purchases its equipment, the extra revenue will go into the village's general fund, he said.
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