03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Northbrook Police's Gun Giveaway Program Under Fire

On October 27, 2009, the Village Board of the Village of Northbrook approved an ordinance providing for the disposal of surplus police department duty weapons--seventy seventeen-year-old Beretta Centurion 92FS'. They decided to give them away to officers for unrestricted personal use. Under the ordinance, if an officer doesn't want his or her weapon, it is supposed to be disposed of through the Northern Illinois Police Crime Lab.

The gun and its specs can be viewed here. It's a semi-automatic handgun, not for hunting or other sport shooting.

Northbrook police Chief Charles Wernick defended the proposal, telling the Chicago Tribune, "We certainly could have traded them in to a dealer who would put them back on the street." The Tribune reported that some departments require officers to purchase their own guns, while some melt retired guns down. Other departments ceremonially throw retired firearms into a nearby body of water, taking the risk that they might turn up somewhere eventually.

Many residents of Northbrook and the surrounding suburbs are upset about the gun giveaway because it will put more weapons in our neighborhood. Lee Goodman of Northbrook pointed out that, "the rates of suicide, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, and depression among police are just as high, or higher, than among the general population."

The giveaway seems to be out of the spirit of existing gun laws in Northbrook. Goodman, an attorney, told me: "There are no retail gun stores in Northbrook, and the Village Zoning Code severely limits the locations where any such store could be opened by requiring that it be at least 1500 feet from any school or park. The Zoning Code also contains an outright ban on the retail sale of handguns. Obviously the Village Board recognizes that guns are dangerous. They have written laws to keep guns out of town. It makes no sense for the Village to be sending its employees home with extra guns."

Due to resident complaints, it appears that the Village Board is going to revisit the issue before implementing the plan. It will be on the agenda at the next Village Board meeting scheduled for 7:30 pm Tuesday, November 17, at 1225 Cedar Lane, Northbrook.

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