Tuesday, October 27, 2015 by gunsnews
It’s not a very big federal agency – 600 agents – but it does have a very big problem.
A new inspector general report has found that the United States Park Police has lost track of a huge cache of weapons including handguns, rifles and even machine guns, in what the Department of the Interior‘s watchdog agency called the most recent example of mismanagement of a force established to protect millions of visitors to the nation’s most iconic monuments.
While there is no evidence – yet – indicating some of the weapons may have fallen into the hands of criminals, the IG said that Park Police might not even know if they had. Per the Washington Post:
In a scathing report, the authors said there is “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 probe was launched in part because of an anonymous tip that Park Police officers were improperly taking weapons home.
Interior’s Office of Inspector General found two instances where agents had indeed taken weapons home, but investigators found much more disturbing evidence of misconduct involving the agency’s guns.
For example, investigators discovered 1,400 firearms that should have already been destroyed or melted down. Also, 198 additional handguns donated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were found just sitting in a building in Anacostia but have never shown up on any official records.
In another example of negligence, in October 2011 the Park Police sent a list of 18 handguns, shotguns and rifles that were described as lost or stolen to a national database – without launching any follow-up investigation. So in other words, the agency knew the weapons were missing, but didn’t bother to find out where they had gone. Per the Post:
The guns, it turned out, had been destroyed or given to other agencies – or they were still in Park Police possession, according to the report. One Remington shotgun remains missing.
“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 IG report. “Historical evidence indicates that the indifference is a product of years of inattention to administrative detail.”
The Post said that investigators took a harsh tone – not usual for an IG – partly because they had discovered similar negligence and mismanagement during investigations in 2008 and 2009, but none of the problems were fixed – a symptom of “the decade-long theme of inaction and indifference” displayed by the agency’s top managers.
It’s not known just how long the Park Police have failed to keep track of its weapons, but the latest IG report documented that one former police chief’s gun went missing for a decade and no one knew about it.
The IG was hard on current Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers as well. Chambers, who came back to her post in 2011 after being suspended and then fired eight years earlier after criticizing Park Police staffing levels in a Washington Post article, was accused of maintaining a “lackadaisical attitude” about weapons. But the report also faulted her top commanders, whom often gave her incorrect or outdated data, “which she relied on in signing off on gun inventory reports,” the Post said.
A spokesman for the National Park Service, which oversees the Park Police, said Chambers has been ordered to implement the IG’s recommendations “without delay.” That includes conducting an immediate weapons inventory.
“I have no tolerance for this management failure,” said Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, in a statement. “The safety and security of our visitors and employees remain our highest priority.”
The IG noted that two officers took guns home without permission. That included a semi-automatic rifle that was present during the presidential inauguration in January, said the paper.
The weapons problem is pervasive. Not only can’t the department locate all its guns, it can’t even get rid of guns long considered obsolete. The Park Police still has 20 M1 Garand rifles, which was the standard-issue rifle for GIs in World War II and Korea, and four Prohibition-era Thompson “Tommy” machine guns.
Sources for this article include: