After months of searching, the Philadelphia Police Department has yet to locate a dozen guns that have turned up missing, reported Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey. According to Ramsey, the department keeps track of weapons by hand, and their low-tech system leaves room for such errors but the search is not complete.
The hunt for lost firearms began in April when a routine audit revealed that a Vietnam-era Colt M-16 was missing from the weapons inventory at the police training academy. The weapon was kept in a locked combination vault, which a limited number of people had access to. The department proceeded to check all units, but still could not track down the gun.
Upon discovery of the missing weapon, Ramsey notified the ATF and contacted the FBI for cooperation. The Philadelphia Police Internal Affairs Division also began its own investigation. At the time, Ramsay stated, "It was either taken or there was an inventory error to begin with."
Despite the inability to locate the weapon, Ramsey said there was no way to know whether the rifle was actually lost. “It was either taken or there was an inventory error to begin with,” he stated. Eleven more weapons have since turned up missing.
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Ramsey also noted, “It’s too soon to say we can’t locate [the firearms]. We have some officers who are out on IOD [injured on duty] status, and others that are detailed to other units.”
He stated that 100 officers have not yet been contacted about the issue, and said “We also have retired officers that we need to check with, to see whether they might have purchased their weapons when they retired.”
Amid the search for the guns, Ramsey replaced Captain Mark Fisher with Captain Charles Green as head of the firearms-training unit, transferring Fisher to offender processing.
Ramsey stated that the switch was not related to the missing weapons issue, calling Fisher “a fine leader and a good man.”
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In an earlier statement, Ramsey stated that if a weapon had indeed been stolen, the thief would face federal charges.