The weapons Waveland police use to protect themselves and the city's citizens are the target of controversy. Should police officers have to return guns that were donated to them after Hurricane Katrina?
A city leader says the police force has been caught in the crossfire. There are 29 handguns that Waveland police officers say they are being unjustly forced to return. The 40 caliber Glocks have been deemed misused public property by the State Auditor's Office.
"Since taking office, some of the officers have come to me with letters they have received about these particular weapons, and it troubled them," said Waveland Mayor Mike Smith.
Smith said those letters stated that the guns were donated to the police department by the Glock Corporation in 2005, a month after Hurricane Katrina.
"When Katrina hit, they hung onto a bush for eight hours in front of the police station just to save their own lives. In the process, they lost all of their weapons that they had," explained Smith.
The Waveland Police Department does not issue officers guns. When officers join the force, they are required to purchase their own weapons. That's why Glock donated the guns to the department.
"They were under the assumption it was their gun. When Katrina hit, being that you lost everything you had, there was a lot of people coming in with donated stuff. There was a lot of stuff being giving left and right. If you received anything, it was assumed that it was yours to keep," said Smith.
The State Auditor's Office says the guns should have been inventoried as city property, issued to the officers and returned to the city when an officer left the department. Nearly 10 years later, the auditor wants all of the guns accounted for, or the officers must pay the city $400.
"Out of those 29 guns, there are only a handful of people that still works there. The rest of them are working somewhere else. Being able to retrieve those guns is very difficult, and if the guns are not returned and if the money is not paid, then those guns will be listed on NCIC as missing weapons or stolen," according to Smith.
He said so far only six of the 29 handguns have been turned in. None of the remaining officers with the department would go on camera about the issue.
Attempts to contact then Police Chief Jimmy Varnell were unsuccessful. Smith said he continues to work with the State Auditor's Office in hopes of resolving the matter.