The U.S. Park Police has lost track of thousands of firearms that can't be accounted for in its official inventory, leading an Interior Department inspector general to charge the agency with serious mismanagement practices.
According to the Washington Post
, none of the missing handguns, rifles, and shotguns are believed to have ended up in criminal hands. But the inspector general's report suggested the oversight of the firearms was so bad that park police probably wouldn't know if they actually had.
In a report released by the inspector general
, investigators acting on an anonymous tip said they found "credible evidence of conditions that would allow for theft and misuse of firearms, and the ability to conceal the fact if weapons were missing," the Post reported.
The report also revealed that park police could not even say how many weapons it currently has in its inventory.
"We found that staff at all levels — from firearms program managers to their employees — had no clear idea of how many weapons they maintained due to incomplete and poorly managed inventory controls," investigators said.
According to the report, investigators also found 1,400 guns that were supposed to have been destroyed still in park police hands. They also found 198 guns that were given to the police by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives were never added to the official police inventory and were still sitting in a park police building in Washington D.C.
Citing the report, The Post also noted that the police failed to implement an internal investigation after listing 18 guns as missing or stolen.
"Commanders up to and including the chief of police have a lackadaisical attitude toward firearms management," Mary L. Kendall, the deputy inspector general, wrote in the report. "Historical evidence indicates that the indifference is a product of years of inattention to administrative detail."
The OIG found solid evidence that these conditions do make it easy for theft and misuse of the firearms to take place as well as a situation that makes it easy to conceal if there are missing firearms.
Once the OIG discovered the accounting problems, it decided to change its audit efforts to focus on the management of the USPP firearms, and found that property management was missing at its most basic level.
"Many of these had serial numbers that had not been submitted to USPP property officers for inclusion into the property management system," the report states. "We also found weapons in areas other than their assigned locations."
The OIG also found that those who were in charge of the firearms did not give proper supervision to those who had access to unassigned weapons.
"Firearms managers accepted verbal assurance that firearms inventories were completed correctly rather than taking personal responsibility for the accuracy," the OIG said.
This opened the USPP to a confusing situation "between firearms accounted for in the USPP inventory and those weapons that were on hand but not included in inventory records."
The OIG discovered that the USPP didn't even have clear policies and procedures in place for staff to investigate missing firearms. It did not comply with the policies of the U.S. Department of the Interior on managing firearms.
Due to the lack of inventory and accounting of weapons, the OIG could not accurately conclude if weapons had been taken by personal for unauthorized purposes.
The OIG is giving the USPP 10 recommendations to shore up the inventory and accountability problem that will be followed up on with frequent oversight by the OIG and the National Park Service.
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