The Des Plaines Police Department is under federal investigation over two missing rifles loaned to the department by the Department of Defense, federal officials said Friday.
The pair of M-16A1 rifles were given to the department in 2002 under a federal program that supplies local law enforcement agencies with surplus military equipment.
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Des Plaines police reported the weapons missing in January, after completing a weapons inventory required by the Defense Department.
An internal police department investigation into the missing weapons concluded this week, with still no indication of how the guns were lost or who is responsible.
Michelle McCaskill, a spokeswoman for the Defense Logistics Agency, which manages the Defense Department's surplus property program, said Friday the matter has been referred to the agency's Office of the Inspector General.
She also said the police department was suspended from the program as of Feb. 11.
Police Chief Bill Kushner said Friday the department will cooperate with the federal investigation "in every possible way."
He said the suspension means the department cannot request any equipment or weapons from the program until the inspector general completes the investigation. Des Plaines police haven't been asked to return any of the weapons it still loans from the defense department, Kushner added.
Meanwhile, the police chief disputed a published report Friday that suggested as many as six rifles at one time were unaccounted for.
The report, citing anonymous sources, said three of the weapons were returned to the gun range after the department told officers to return the guns and "no questions would be asked."
A fourth gun was later found in the range, the report says.
Kushner, however, says the report is incorrect.
"There were only two rifles missing," Kushner wrote to the Daily Herald in an email Friday. "At one point a department-purchased rifle had been stored in the wrong place. The assertion that six rifles were missing is ludicrous."
Kushner said earlier this week the internal investigation concluded that from 2002 until 2007, the assignment and use of the rifles was well-documented. But from 2007 to 2013, the record-keeping was "muddled and virtually nonexistent," he said.
What also contributed to the disappearance of the rifles, Kushner said, was that police staffers used to have an "inordinate" amount of keys to the department's basement armory. As well, a camera outside the armory was out of service for some time after its connection was pulled for use with another camera.
The department has since implemented a keyless remote entry system and returned the camera to service.