The Dallas Police Department Is Really Bad at Keeping Track of its Weapons

Recall last month when it came to light that, whoops, Dallas police had reissued the guns used in not one but two officer-involved shootings, despite the fact that the guns were material evidence important to the felony cases against the two cops, Amy Wilburn and Cardan Spencer, as well as the civil lawsuit filed by the guy Wilburn shot. It seemed a bit too convenient that the guns used by the only two Dallas cops to be indicted for an on-duty shooting in modern times would be allowed back into circulation. Certainly there had to be a conspiracy. Certainly Dallas PD can't be that incompetent.

Actually, according to an audit of the department's internal controls over guns and other weapons City Hall released today, yes. Yes it can. It's also far easier than it should be to steal "high risk inventory" -- i.e. guns, Tasers, badges, and radios.

See also: Dallas Police Guns Used to Shoot Citizens Sent Back to Street, Not Evidence Room

The audit itself gets pretty wonky and is larded with management-speak and accounting jargon, so we'll start with some easy-to-digest section title. For example: "High Risk Inventory Items Are Not Adequately Safeguarded." Or: "High Risk Inventory Is Not Property Managed."

The guns and Tasers, you'll be glad to know, are locked up, split between a safe and a vault. But the auditors fault DPD for not periodically changing the safe combination and not re-keying the vault. Badges and radios are kept in filing cabinets that are either kept unlocked or can be opened with a key stored in a nearby desk drawer. Also, the security cameras designed to protect these valuables are pointed in the wrong directions, and the door to the facility is ripe for break-ins, since the deadbolt can be easily reached from nearby windows.

Those lapses haven't resulted in any missing weapons that we know of. The department's system for tracking inventory is another matter, if it can be properly called a system. There is no database that records all high-risk inventory, and the cards that are supposed to be filled out by hand when a weapon or badge is issued, returned, or disposed of are often incomplete or inaccurate. Underlying these problems is the fact that the "high risk inventory procedures are incomplete, informal, not reviewed, and no communicated periodically." The audit doesn't specifically mention the Wilburn and Spencer gun screw-ups, but it's not hard to imagine how they might have happened.

On the bright side, DPD has agreed to the implement the audit's major recommendations by Halloween. So next time the police shoot someone, they'll be able to track down the gun.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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