Gun parts loaned to Florence PD unaccounted for, likely 'inadvertently discarded'

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Important gun parts that were unaccounted for at an Arizona police department have a federal oversight agency reviewing its own processes.

The Law Enforcement Support Office, or LESO, oversees the transfer of surplus Department of Defense property to local law enforcement agencies.

Thirty M16s were loaned to the Arizona Department of Public Safety under this program and were then transferred to the Florence Police Department in 2013.

According to Florence police, when they got the weapons, components called sears were already taken out to convert the weapons from fully-automatic to semi-automatic, and the components were then put in a safe at Florence Police Headquarters.

This week, employees from LESO conducted a routine audit. That's when the chief of Florence Police Department, Daniel Hughes, said they realized the sear components were gone.

In a statement, Hughes said access to the safe was restricted to few personnel, and that he believes with a "high degree of confidence" they were "inadvertently discarded," and are not in the hands of the public.

"I have to take him on his word on that," said the LESO state coordinator, Sgt. Matt VanCamp. He said checking in on the components is not part of the review process, but that now could change.

"That’s not ever been part of a review process before, but now that this has happened, we are going to bring up and suggest that we change our processes to include, hey, we want to see the parts you removed as part of this review process," VanCamp said.

He added that the weapons are on loan, so they prefer that no part or component be discarded or destroyed. They prefer that the parts stay with the law enforcement agency for the life of the loan.

"The State of Arizona takes this seriously and that we are going to review our processes and make sure we have processes in place to hold agencies accountable," VanCamp said.

Hughes said they are going to better label loaned equipment so this does not happen again.

You can read the full statement from the Florence Police Department here:

In 2013, as part of the United States Department of Defense, Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office Surplus Property Program (“DRMO”), the Town of Florence Police Department received thirty surplus rifles from the Arizona Department of Public Safety (“DPS”).  The DPS representative for the program provided a small package of parts along with the rifles.  The package of parts contained sear disconnect assemblies (“assemblies”).  The Florence Police Department made no modifications to the rifles, including attaching the assemblies to the rifles.  The Police Department stored the small storage bag in a secure safe inside a restricted area within the Police Department immediately upon receipt from DPS.  The safe storing the assemblies is located in a separately secured area from the storage of the rifles.  The assemblies remained segregated from the rifles at all times.  Additionally, access to the safe containing the package of parts remained restricted to few Police Department personnel at all times since 2013.

The DRMO contacted the Town of Florence Police Department to arrange a routine annual audit of all property obtained by the Town under the federal surplus equipment program.  In preparation for that audit, the Town discovered this week while preparing for the audit that the parts package containing the assemblies was inadvertently discarded with other items of minimal value contained inside the safe unrelated to the rifles. The Florence Police Department immediately conducted an internal review and concluded that there is a high degree of confidence that the assemblies were in fact inadvertently discarded.  The package of items was discarded inadvertently as part of a change in personnel and an effort to discard unused equipment with minimal value.  There is no evidence that any items contained in the secure safe were stolen. The Florence Police Department reported the missing sears assemblies to the DRMO representatives during the audit.  The Florence Police Department was found in compliance with the audit parameters conducted by the DRMO.

The representatives from the DRMO and United States Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (“ATF”) have reviewed the situation and consulted with the Police Department regarding the annual audit and the assemblies.  No agencies external to the Police Department are investigating the discarded assemblies.  The Florence Police Department revised its procedures for the federal surplus equipment program to ensure that any equipment loaned under the DRMO Program are thoroughly labeled to avoid this type of inadvertent disposal in the future.

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Lindsey ReiserLindsey Reiser is a Scottsdale native and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

Click to learn more about Lindsey

Lindsey Reiser

Lindsey returned to the Valley in 2010 after covering border and immigration issues in El Paso, TX. While in El Paso she investigated public corruption, uncovered poor business practices, and routinely reported on the violence across the border.

Lindsey feels honored to have several awards under her belt, including a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award, Hearst Journalist Award, and several National Broadcast Education Association Awards.

Lindsey is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and she currently serves as a mentor to journalism students. She studied for a semester in Alicante, Spain and also earned a degree in Spanish at ASU.

She is proud to serve as a member of United Blood Services’ Community Leadership Council, a volunteer advisory board for the UBS of Arizona.

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