A dozen guns and more than three dozen bulletproof vests belonging to employees of the state’s Department of Public Safety and Corrections went missing over the past few years and haven’t been found, according to a legislative auditor’s report released Monday.
The audit exposing the missing corrections gear prompted the department recently to revise its policy regarding “sensitive items,” which include weapons, vests and radios. The policy now requires quarterly inventory audits of such items. And in May, department leaders met with staff members in charge of managing the public property to explain the new rules, according to a letter written by the department’s head, Secretary Jimmy Leblanc.
“The loss of any gun is important,” Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said. “We need to improve the control over these items so that they don’t go missing in the first place.”
Of the 12 guns — all pistols — reported in the audit as “unlocated,” 11 were stolen, said Pam Laborde, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
The twelfth gun was inside an agent’s home that caught fire and was destroyed, Laborde said.
In light of the audit, the department is researching ways to improve the security of weapons inside unmarked vehicles of probation and parole officers, Laborde said.
The items went missing between fiscal years 2010 and 2014. Seven of the guns disappeared in 2011, according to the audit.
The audit also found that the department failed to report three stolen guns, a stolen vest and some stolen bullets to the Legislative Auditor’s Office and the local district attorney, as required by law.
Leblanc, however, disputes the finding in a letter, writing that “misappropriations,” as the specified items were considered, should not fall under that category because the acts didn’t involve the intentional act of misuse by the department or its employees. Plus, the thefts were reported to local law enforcement agencies, he wrote.
Leblanc also notes that the missing “sensitive items” represented less than 1 percent of all the 5,200 such items in the department’s possession.
Of the missing guns, all 12 belonged to probation and parole employees, as did 16 of the missing bulletproof vests, the audit found.
Nine vests belonged to employees from Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson, five from the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in St. Gabriel, five from David Wade Correctional Center at Homer, three from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and one from Elayn Hunt Correctional Center at St. Gabriel, the audit found.
A few of the missing items, including one gun, were recently removed from the missing property lists because they had been unaccounted for in three consecutive years.
At that point, items are no longer considered missing but are considered permanently gone, Purpera said.
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