Employees with the Department of Homeland Security lost more than 200 firearms and nearly 1,900 badges over a three-year span, according to an audit from the agency’s Office of Inspector General.
The audit found Homeland Security personnel lost 2,142 “highly sensitive assets” between 2014 and 2016. Included in that total is 228 firearms, 1,889 badges, and 25 secure immigration stamps.
More than half of the 115 lost items reviewed by the Office of Inspector General “revealed that component personnel did not follow policy or used poor judgment when safeguarding these assets.”
In one instance, two off-duty officers with Immigration and Customs Enforcement left their firearms “unsecured and unattended” in backpacks when they were on a beach in Puerto Rico. When the ICE officers returned to their bags, they were gone.
In another instance, an officer with Customs and Border Protection left his backpack in an unlocked gym locker. His wallet and government badge were inside the backpack, and they were gone when he returned to the locker.
The Homeland Security Office of Inspector General found lost sensitive assets eventually made their way to criminals. Of the cases the watchdog reviewed, police found three firearms and one badge in the possession of convicted felons. Law enforcement also recovered one firearm from a person that possessed heroin, and another was recovered from a suspect charged with attempted armed robbery.
Additionally, a badge was found during a raid two years after it went missing.
In 65 cases involving officers that failed to protect sensitive assets, 22 officers weren’t disciplined, and nine received counseling. Fourteen were suspended, 15 received a letter of reprimand, and five were removed, according to the Office of Inspector General.
The Department of Homeland Security personnel have a total of 259,091 firearms, 174,203 badges, and 67,463 secure immigration stamps.
In addition to losing “sensitive assets,” the Homeland Security watchdog found components of the agency are also “not effectively tracking sensitive assets.”
The Department of Homeland Security defines “sensitive assets” as items that require “special control due to unusual rates of loss, theft, or misuse,” such as weapons, ammunition, secure immigration stamps, explosives, and law enforcement equipment.
The amount of sensitive assets lost from 2014 to 2016 is a slight improvement from a 2010 audit from the Office of Inspector, which found Homeland Security personnel lost 289 firearms over a three-year span.
In response to the 2010 audit, the Department of Homeland Security implemented a new policy and more monitoring controls in 2013.