PHOENIX, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- More guns are found to be missing from the Maricopa County Sheriff's office.
In October, after a shootout on the I-17, two guns stolen from MCSO were found in the suspect's vehicle. Sheriff Paul Penzone soon after announced the department knew it had 29 missing firearms.
On Friday, Sheriff Paul Penzone announced an additional audit done with the help of the ATF found the number of missing guns was actually much higher. He says fifty guns have gone missing or have been stolen from MCSO.
The weapons include:
-29 fully automatic weapons,
-20 short barrel shotguns,
-1 short-barreled rifle.
Penzone said there is no indication that ANY of those weapons have gone missing since he took office, and blamed the "previous administration" for not being able to account for all the weapons.
"It is unacceptable for any law enforcement agency to be this negligent to not keep accurate records and to allow for weapons to be distributed in a matter that doesn't have any oversight or accountability," said Penzone.
He says MCSO is implementing new policies and measures to make sure all weapons are tracked and accounted for.
"We have to be responsible and accountable," he said.
The audit is ongoing, and Penzone said authorities will continue looking into what happened to the missing guns.
"At the end of the day, we're going to get them all back," Penzone said.
MCSO also gives guns to its Qualified Armed Posse members, or QAP, a group of civilian volunteers.
Penzone said he is suspending the branch after an audit showed that most members had not completed the required testing, including
-Qualification with firearm test.
Penzone said Friday that of the 235 members of the posse, only FOUR members had actually completed all six steps.
"There was a push to increase the volume of that posse by the prior administration, in my opinion, for the perception of showing some expansion of law enforcement force. Which in my opinion was more so politically motivated. And in the haste to do so, we have a lot of men and women who were given this privilege, and not that they're not deserving, but there was no standard that was kept to make sure they had gone through this process," said Sheriff Penzone.
The Sheriff said the suspension of the posse branch is temporary. He says they will all have a chance to complete their qualifications and return to the QAP.
He said other areas of the posse will not be affected, like the search and rescue operations.
UPDATE: This was the letter was sent out to posse members Friday:
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) appreciates and embraces the productive relationship with
our valued Posse members. In order to ensure the credibility of the shared mission, we have and
continue to review processes related to the empowerment of civilian volunteers. During a recent audit,
it was determined there is a lack of consistency in the process for the certification of Qualified Armed
Posse (QAP) members. Due to the discrepancies and inconsistencies, we are formalizing the process to
ensure all Posse members meet uniform standards.
For those Posse members qualified, vetted and trained as a representative of MCSO, this process will
enhance the credibility of our organization and the Posse program. The standards are not intended to
deter the passion of our valued civilian volunteers. Our goal is sound consistent standards and practices
that promote public safety and community trust.
Because of the audit’s findings, until notified otherwise, I am temporarily suspending the enforcement
operations of the Posse program. If our records indicate that you have successfully met these
requirements, you will be permitted to continue with QAP certification and/or in enforcement
operations of the Posse program. If you have not met these requirements and wish to continue as an
active member of the Posse, you will be required to complete the requirements. Until that time, your
roles and responsibilities must be modified to reflect your status, to include suspension of your right to
put on the uniform and carry a firearm until the requirements have been met. MCSO will work as
expeditiously as possible to process those Posse members who have requirements to meet.
This notification is not intended as a judgment of your ability, character or commitment to the integrity
of our shared mission. Our intentions are to ensure consistency throughout the organization in all facets
to include the Posse program. I appreciate your willingness to serve our community and your
understanding of the importance and privilege associated with carrying a firearm or engaging in
enforcement operations while representing the MCSO Posse.
Maricopa County Sheriff