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Hundreds of Park Police guns unaccounted for, report says

By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd, CNN
updated 1:47 PM EDT, Fri July 5, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • National Park Service orders inventory
  • Public safety never at risk, police union says
  • Union says all weapons accounted for
  • Alternative tracking is being used, union says

(CNN) -- The U.S. Park Police is failing to adequately keep track of its firearms, creating an environment in which weapons are vulnerable to theft or misuse, according to a government report released Friday.

Due to "a lackadaisical attitude toward firearms management" by commanders, investigators said they 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."

In a force of approximately 640 officers, the report says, hundreds of weapons were not properly accounted for. The auditors also allege that the agency has more than 1,400 extra weapons, including 477 military-style automatic and semiautomatic rifles.

The head of the Park Police officers' union, Ian Glick, said there are shortcomings in the "antiquated system of weapon tracking," but public safety was never put in jeopardy.

"None of these weapons were ever seized in a crime, or found on someone who shouldn't have one," he said. While the tracking system has its failings, he said, "all the weapons are accounted for. Every weapon, every stick of ammo, everything is accounted for. But it's not accounted for in the National Park Service weapons inventory computer system."

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The National Park Service declined to respond to Glick's specific assertion. But it said it has immediately ordered a complete weapons inventory, to address the "significant, systemic firearms management problems" identified in the report.

"I have no tolerance for this management failure," said Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service. He pledged to implement the report's recommendations on record-keeping, and went on to praise the police officers. "The brave men and women of the U.S. Park Police are professionals who put their life on the line every day," he said, "protecting our parks for millions to enjoy."

The report cited several examples of mishandling of weapons, including two officers it says brought their rifles home with them. But at least one example has come into dispute.

The audit asserts that a former chief of the Park Police never turned in his handgun, and 10 years after his retirement it was taken from him by an instructor at a qualification course for retired law enforcement officers, who happened to notice the former chief still had government property.

But the former chief, Robert Langston, rejects the claim, saying he never kept a handgun, he never had one taken away, and he was never asked by auditors about the allegation. The first he heard of it was when he got a call from CNN on Friday morning.

"Nobody ever confiscated a gun of mine. I would recall that," he said. "Where did they get that?"

He said he turned in his weapon when he left government service, and showed CNN his paperwork.

When asked about the contradiction, the inspector general's office said its report was based on Park Police records, and the discrepancy just shows the extent of the agency's record-keeping problems. The National Park Service did not respond to an inquiry about the former chief's paperwork.

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