Interior IG report: The Park Police have lost track of thousands of guns

In yet another tedious sign of administrative incompetence, negligence, and/or straight-up misconduct in our too-large federal bureaucracy, a new report from the Department of Interior Inspector General points to consistent and serious mismanagement of the U.S. Park Police’s firearms inventory over at least the last several years. The damning report found that the Park Police, tasked with upholding law and order around many of our country’s parks and monuments, are missing information on more than 1,400 firearms from their official inventory:

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 gist of the report isn’t that the IG thinks that the missing firearms actually are in criminal hands, but that they very readily could be, and the Park Police would have no idea about it and no recourse for figuring it out. “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 report reads. “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.”

Despite the IG having found similar problems back in 2009, nobody ever got around to actually fixing them; just add it to the pile of evidence of a bloated, inefficient bureaucracy enforcing rules and following procedures if and when they feel like it.