Two missing rifles loaned to the Des Plaines Police Department by the Department of Defense have failed to turn up following an internal investigation, authorities said Tuesday.
The weapons, both M-16A1 rifles, were given to the department in 2002 under a federal program that supplies local law enforcement agencies with surplus military equipment, including weapons, vehicles, tactical gear and electronics, for local counterdrug and counterterrorism operations.
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Des Plaines police officials reported the pair of semi-automatic rifles missing in January after completing a weapons inventory required by the defense department.
"As soon as we realized we had an issue, we searched the building, cars, the range and garage," Police Chief Bill Kushner said. "We queried everybody on the department, at the same time making internal changes to make sure we didn't lose anything else."
Kushner said the department's internal investigation, conducted by Cmdr. Charles Akin, found that from 2002 until 2007, the assignment and use of the rifles was well-documented.
But from 2007 to 2013, the record keeping "was so muddled and virtually nonexistent, it would be like trying to push Jell-O," said Kushner, who took over as top cop in September 2012.
Kushner said officials still don't know how the guns were lost or who is responsible.
"It's so confusing and incomplete and convoluted," he said. "It just points to so many other things that happened in this department during those years where there was just mismanagement. Things were not done properly."
Kushner said a camera outside the department's basement armory -- where the rifles were thought to have been stored -- had been out of service for some time after its connection was pulled for use with another camera.
He admits he thought the camera was operational when he was hired as chief, but realized it wasn't after the rifles couldn't be located. The camera has since been returned to service.
Kushner said police staff had an "inordinate" amount of keys to the armory -- a list that included all range officers and firearms instructors.
"There was so many out there it could have been anybody," he said.
A keyless remote entry system has since been installed on the armory's door. Such electronic "key fobs" are able to track who has accessed the armory and at what time. Kushner said they've been assigned to fewer personnel. Locking weapons cabinets have also been installed within the armory.
The chief said he's anticipating the federal Law Enforcement Support Office and Defense Logistics Agency, which manages the surplus property program, could soon be conducting an investigation of their own.
The police department could be suspended from the program for a period of time if found liable, Kushner said.
The department currently has other rifles on loan from the defense department -- all of which have been accounted for in the armory or patrol vehicles, Kushner said.