The U.S. Park Police, the law enforcement agency responsible for safeguarding the National Mall and critical American landmarks, has lost track of a large supply of handguns, rifles and shotguns, according to a harshly critical report issued Thursday.
In the report, the Inspector General's Office of the Department of Interior faults staff at the agency for having no idea how many weapons they control and says the department has no clear policies or procedures for investigating missing weapons. The office says top managers, including the police chief, have shown a "lackadaisical attitude toward firearms management.''
While surveying Park Police field office armories, investigators found more than 1,400 extra and unassigned weapons that were intended to be destroyed. They also found 198 handguns that were transferred from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and stored in an operations facility firearms room without being recorded in an inventory system.
There are also instances of officers storing service weapons at their homes, according to the report.
"We 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,'' deputy inspector general Mary Kendall wrote to Jonathan Jarvis, the director of the National Park Service, in a letter that accompanies the report.
The watchdog agency says its report was triggered by an anonymous tip suggesting that the Park Police could not account for government-issued military-style weapons.
A spokesman for the agency did not immediately return an email seeking comment, and an evening shift commander said he hadn't seen the report and couldn't discuss it.
The report also includes 10 recommendations to improve firearms management. The Washington Post was first to report the inspector general's findings.
The Fraternal Order of Police released a response to the report, pointing out several inaccuracies:
- The report fails to mention that firearms requiring disposal cannot be destroyed due to the lack of any contractor currently available to dispose of (melt down) these firearms and render them useless. Nor are any recommendations given on how to remedy this.
- This report makes assertions that go back well over 10 years, yet the current Chief has only been back in her position since 2011, after her lengthy court battle to return to her position. There is no mention of any other former officials being held accountable for past failures, some of whom are still employed by the Department of Interior or other Federal agencies.
- The report fails to mention that the Firearms Custodian has had little to no access to the computer system used to track these government owned firearms other than viewing capability. The ability to add, delete or modify the inventory has not been given to the U.S. Park Police, directly.
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