A top Secret Service agent who has regularly served on President Obama’s protective detail had his gun stolen out of his car at his house after leaving it there overnight and was never disciplined for it, according to two sources with detailed knowledge of the incident.
Internal Secret Service records show that the agency reported that the agent in question lost a semi-automatic handgun in 2009, but he was never punished for it, the two sources said.
At the time of the gun theft, the agent was assigned to the Secret Service’s inspection division, which collaborates with the Office of Professional Responsibility to ensure the agency complies with its policies and federal regulations and maintains high levels of “integrity, compliance and accountability,” according to the agency’s 2013 annual report.
The 2009 gun theft incident is widely known within the Secret Service and has troubled other agents and employees because the agent who lost the gun was never suspended or disciplined over the incident. In fact, he was later promoted to the protective division charged with safeguarding the security of the president, first family and former presidents.
The agent came home from work one night and left his work bag in the back seat of his car, a source recalled.
Secret Service agents are usually very careful about their guns and must undergo firearm training regularly to re-qualify to use them on the job.
But problems with stolen or misplaced guns are all too common at the agency, sources told the Washington Examiner, arguing that the Secret Service has a lackadaisical attitude toward firearms management.
In recent years, a gun was stolen out of a car outside headquarters, another gun was accidentally left at a shopping mall in a Washington suburb and another misplaced in the women’s bathroom at headquarters, the sources said.
In June 2010, two teenagers stole “a badge and a service weapon” from the car of a Secret Service agent in Noblesville, Ind., a suburb of Indianapolis, where the agency has a field office.
The teens, both 17, took the agent’s .357 handgun, which was recovered after someone tipped off the police, according to a local news report.
In August 2012, a Secret Service agent left a loaded gun in the campaign plane carrying Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney from Tampa, Fla., to Indianapolis. The weapon was spotted by a reporter.
When agents have their guns stolen or if they simply misplace them, they must report the incidents to their supervisor, file incident reports about it and obtain a replacement.
The Secret Service has an internal review board to handle all problems with employees and determine appropriate disciplinary action, if any. But in recent years, the agency has relied on supervisors to write up and report any incidents to the review board.
Too often, the sources said, supervisors only write up infractions for some agents and not others, creating resentment in the ranks.
After Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned last week after a string of security breaches and reports of embarrassing incidents and low morale, top Secret Service brass held a conference call pep talk with the top agents in field offices throughout the country Friday afternoon.
Deputy Director A.T. Smith and Assistant Director Paul Morrissey told the agents to remain “vigilant,” continue to do their jobs and work with state and local officials to prepare for the November midterm elections when Obama and first lady Michelle will be traveling more throughout the country, sources familiar with the call told the Examiner.
Although alarming on its face, losing or having guns stolen is a fairly common problem among police departments across the country.
In some areas of the country, departments require police officers to lock their guns in a special case when not using them in their personal vehicles, at the office or home.
But the elite Secret Service force does not have such a requirement, sources said. Agents routinely carry their guns home in their bags along with their radio dispatchers, their badges and other items.
Before a recent Department of Homeland Security investigation of Secret Service practices sparked by a prostitution scandal, losing or having a gun stolen was only a minor agency infraction, requiring a one- to eight-day suspension, with most receiving only a reprimand or a one-day suspension without pay.
During the Homeland Security Department inspector general investigation in 2012 after the Colombia prostitution scandal, investigators questioned the light penalties for losing guns or negligently leaving them where they could be stolen.
Pierson then established an Office of Integrity to weigh agency violations, and disciplinary action and penalties for losing or having a gun stolen became much more severe, requiring a more thorough investigation and up to 14 days suspension without pay.
However, it’s unclear whether the agency is enforcing the new requirements.
Washington Examiner Chief Congressional Correspondent Susan Ferrechio contributed to this report.