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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Audit Calls for Better Ammunition Tracking

(CN) - U.S. prisons don't keep track of their munitions and equipment well enough, making it easy for officers to use or even steal firearms and ammo, according to an audit.

After a prison employee pleaded guilty in 2011 to stealing stun munitions during tactical trainings at the Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, Colo., the U.S. Justice Department's Inspector General audited the Bureau of Prisons' (BOP) controls over armory munitions and equipment.

Thursday's partially redacted audit report covers seven of the bureau's 120 armories at 122 institutions - four in Colorado, and three in Arizona - from fiscal year 2013 through December 2015.

The armories reportedly contain firearms, ammunition, chemical agents, stun munitions, badges, and equipment for communication, detection and defense, which are used for routine assignments as well as emergencies and training exercises.

"Our audit identified several deficiencies in BOP's controls and practices for safeguarding armory munitions and equipment that increase the risk that armory munitions and equipment could be lost, misplaced, or stolen without being detected," the Inspector General reported.

The Justice Department said it "found weaknesses in BOP's controls over tracking, issuing and reporting on both active and expired armory munitions and equipment, as well as BOP institutions' compliance with existing policies."

Though the BOP's security officer system (SOS) reportedly provides munitions item descriptions, along with their original quantity and locations within the facility, it fails to track the when and why of product movement as well as increases and decreases in inventory.

"Security officers can move inventory in and out of armories, and change information in SOS, without leaving any record that a change in inventory occurred," the audit states.

Plus, officers are reportedly not required to include expired munitions in periodic reports.

The audit found that the requirements for tracking munitions through SOS are "completely independent" from those for the bureau's Sentry property management system.

In addition, the BOP did not always adequately document the authorization and use of munitions, according to the audit.

"Because the authorizing official is not required to sign the form required for removing and returning items from the armory, there is no record showing that the use of armory munitions and equipment was actually approved by an authorized official," the audit states.

Indeed, the form only requires the initials of the person returning items, attesting that all were used, and listing all that were returned.

The Justice Department said "in many instances, we could not determine who initialed this line," or in other cases the armory staff improperly initialed the form instead of the person who checked out the items.

At four of the seven armories investigated, the audit found that security officers do not use the required form when personally removing items from the armory.

The Inspector General even discovered "unauthorized chemical agents or ammunition," as well as outdated or generalized item names that did not match the inventory at its institutions.

At six out of the seven investigated institutions, the audit found that armory staff failed to properly document the dates of required periodic inventories and test fires.

The Justice Department gave 14 recommendations to improve the BOP's munitions handling. They include requiring armories to log every inventory change, including expired munitions, and keep track of who authorized whom to use what items, using their standard names.

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