Decade of “Inaction and Indifference” in Park Police Gun Scandal
The federal law enforcement agency responsible for protecting American landmarks and monuments—primarily in the nation’s capital—has lost track of hundreds of rifles, shotguns and handguns, according to an investigation that exposes a “decade-long theme of inaction and indifference” in leadership and management.
It involves the U.S. Park Police (USPP), the 640-officer force that operates under the U.S. Department of the Interior and is responsible for safe guarding the country’s most important landmarks like the National Mall in Washington D.C. and the Statue of Liberty in New York. It turns out that the agency can’t keep track of its weapons, making them dangerously vulnerable to theft.
Additionally, the police agency keeps a stash of more than 1,400 extra or unassigned weapons, including more than 470 military-style automatic and semiautomatic rifles. This alarming information was made public recently by the Interior Department’s Inspector General, which looked into the matter after receiving an anonymous complaint. Scary as this may seem, it has been going on for years at this agency, according to the watchdog.
In fact, the IG confirms in its latest report that this is hardly the first time this rather serious issue comes to light. In 2008 and 2009 the watchdog found a “lackadaisical attitude toward firearms management” at the federal police agency. Years later, investigators encountered similar problems, that individuals appointed to oversee weapons, including senior command officers, gave only minimal supervision to officers and other program staff who had access to unassigned weapons.
“During our site visits and subsequent interviews with key USPP firearms program personnel, OIG identified systemic internal control weaknesses,” says a statement accompanying the report. “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.”
This is unacceptable for any police department, but even more so from a key law enforcement agency charged with such a crucial task. On its official website, the USPP claims to provide “highly trained and professional police officers to prevent and detect criminal activity, conduct investigations, apprehend individuals suspected of committing offenses against Federal, State and local laws, provide protection to the President of the United States and visiting dignitaries, and provide protective services to some of the most recognizable monuments and memorials in the world.”
The department’s watchdog offers a more accurate assessment of the federal law enforcement agency in its latest probe: “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. The outrageous “control weaknesses” have “impaired” the USPP, investigators confirmed.