The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report, today that is highly critical of the United States Park Police’s handling of its firearms inventories. The F.O.P. fully supports the OIG’s review of firearms policies and welcomes any critical assessment that will ensure our members have all of the tools necessary to effectively serve and protect the public.
However, we take issue with the conclusions drawn by the OIG and the National Park Service Director’s assertions made regarding the firearms program within the U.S. Park Police. Specifically,
• Director Jarvis states, “I have no tolerance for this management failure, the safety and security of our visitors and employees remain our highest priority.” The F.O.P. applauds the Director in reiterating our mission; however, the implication is that somehow, public safety was in jeopardy due to the antiquated system of weapon tracking. This is absolutely not the case and to imply so is to imply the officers of the U.S. Park Police have somehow failed the public we serve. In addition, NONE of these weapons were evidence or confiscated during arrests. They are all government owned firearms-solely for government use.
• The report fails to mention that firearms requiring disposal cannot be destroyed due to the lack of any contractor currently available to dispose of (melt down) these firearms and render them useless. Nor are any recommendations given on how to remedy this.
• This report makes assertions that go back well over 10 years, yet the current Chief has only been back in her position since 2011, after her lengthy court battle to return to her position. There is no mention of any other former officials being held accountable for past failures, some of whom are still employed by the Department of Interior or other Federal agencies.
• The report fails to mention that the Firearms Custodian has had little to no access to the computer system used to track these government owned firearms other than viewing capability. The ability to add, delete or modify the inventory has not been given to the U.S. Park Police, directly.
• The report discusses antiquated weapons with “limited or no operational need”. 4 of these weapons are used by the Honor Guard for ceremonial purposes and the remainder cannot be disposed of due to lack of a contractor for that purpose.
The OIG’s report has revealed that many problems within the U.S. Park Police are systematic and have existed for many years, though it now looks to hold accountable the officers who currently work for the agency with no mention of the length of these problems. The dedicated officers who diligently serve the public safeguard their personally issued weapons and any others owned by the agency. Any statement to the contrary is baseless and without merit and should immediately be amended to state that this agency has done the best job it can, with the limited resources, tools and funding given to it by the National Park Service. We look forward to any review of the current programs within the U.S. Park Police so long as they are complete, concise and include identifying where system failures first began.