WASHINGTON, June 28 (UPI) -- U.S. Park Police lost track of hundreds of handguns, rifles and shotguns, due to "lackadaisical" weapons management, a federal watchdog report said.
Investigators, following up on an anonymous complaint, found no evidence the agency's firearms got into the hands of criminals, but conditions were right for firearms theft -- and Park Police might not be able to figure out if any were stolen anyway, the report by the U.S. Interior Department's inspector general's office said.
"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's synopsis states. "As a result, we discovered hundreds of handguns, rifles
and shotguns not accounted for on official USPP inventory records."
About 1,400 guns that were supposed to have been destroyed or melted down were found still in the agency's possession, a public version of the report said.
An additional 198 handguns donated to the agency in January by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were found sitting in a building in Washington, but they show up in no police records, said the report, released Thursday.
Eighteen unaccounted-for pistols, shotguns and rifles could have been missing "for decades," Police Chief Teresa Chambers told investigators, and could therefore not be investigated "since many of the people involved had retired, leaving no paper trail," the report said.
"This report ... underscores the decade-long theme of inaction and indifference by USPP leadership and management at all levels," Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall said in a cover memo. "Basic levels 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."
Similar problems found in 2008 and 2009 were never fixed, said the report, found at tinyurl.com/UPI-Police-Guns.
Firearms managers, including Chambers, "accepted verbal assurance that firearms inventories were completed correctly rather than taking personal responsibility for accuracy," the report said.
The gun-inventory information they accepted was frequently wrong or outdated, and managers, including Chambers, routinely signed off on it, the report said.
"We strongly recommend that immediate action be taken to establish a professionally responsible firearms management program at USPP," Kendall's memo said.
"We have little confidence that USPP has the managerial commitment to carry out this effort without direct and frequent oversight from the National Park Service [which oversees the Park Police] and OIG," the memo said, referring to the Office of the Inspector General by its initials.
"We intend to conduct a series of reviews and inspections regarding USPP programs and accountability," Kendall said.
Park Police and Chambers had no immediate comment on the report.
Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson was quoted by The Washington Post as saying Chambers was ordered to implement the inspector general's 10 recommendations, including an immediate weapons inventory, "without delay."
"I have no tolerance for this management failure," Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said in a statement. "The safety and security of our visitors and employees remain our highest priority."
The Park Police is one of the oldest U.S. uniformed federal law enforcement agencies, formed by George Washington in 1791 as Park Watchmen to protect federal property in the District of Columbia.
The agency's 640 officers patrol Park Service property, mostly in the Washington, San Francisco and New York City.
It is one of the few full-service federal police departments with both state and federal authority.