IG: U.S. Park Police Lost Track of Thousands of Guns

According to a new report from the Department of the Interior Inspector General, the United States Park Police have lost track of thousands of handguns, shotguns, machine guns and rifles.

An anonymous complaint led the Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate the management and supervision of the U.S. Park Police (USPP) firearms program. Simultaneous, unannounced inspections of unassigned weapons at USPP facilities revealed that USPP could not account for Government-issued military-style rifles. It also showed that its weapons inventory was incomplete. Incomplete weapons inventories undermine USPP accountability for all of its weapons, and allow for the possibility that weapons that cannot be located and may not be in safe keeping.

During our site visits and subsequent interviews with key USPP firearms program personnel, OIG identified systemic internal control weaknesses. Our review revealed that USPP had no proper accounting for hundreds of weapons. We discovered hundreds of handguns, rifles, and shotguns not accounted for on the official USPP inventory. As recently as April 2013, two automatic rifles were discovered during a firearms search for which USPP had no prior knowledge.

We also found that individuals appointed to oversee the program, including senior command officers, gave only minimal supervision to officers and other program staff who had access to unassigned weapons. This report, following our earlier reviews in 2008 and 2009, underscores a theme of inaction and indifference by USPP leadership and a lackadaisical attitude toward firearms management. We provided 10 recommendations to improve firearms management and accountability throughout USPP.

“The accompanying report provides ample evidence that USPP’s firearms management requires immediate attention to address the multitude of problems we found, which ranged from fundamental errors in record keeping to glaring nonfeasance by senior command officers,” Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall wrote in a summary.

The report, issued late Thursday evening, details that the Park Service not only lost guns, but has no real idea of how many it is actually responsible for. 

“We initially set out to determine if USPP could account for all military-style weapons in its inventory, whether USPP had intentionally concealed missing weapons, and whether officers used USPP weapons for their personal use. Our effort to definitively address the allegations were hindered by a failure of the USPP property and firearms custodians to provide a baseline inventory and accounting of firearms. 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,” Kendall wrote. 

Handguns that were obtained from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, weren’t placed into the inventory record.

“The custodian took no steps to record the handguns transferred from ATF on any inventory system,” the report states. “The only documentation pertaining to these firearms that the custodian could provide was the transfer paperwork from ATF During our documentation review, we discovered that a handgun serial number had been incorrectly listed on that paperwork.”

On top of these weapons not being stored properly and recorded in official inventory, many weapons were being stored in the homes of police. 

“This report further underscores the decade-long theme of inaction and indifference of USPP leadership and management at all levels. Basic tenets of property management and supervisory oversight are missing in their simplest forms. Commanders, up to and including the Chief of Police, have a lackadaisical attitude toward firearms management. Historical evidence indicates that this indifference is a product of years of inattention to administrative detail and management principles,” Kendall wrote.