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Audit shows more weapons missing from MCSO than previously believed

PHOENIX – The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department is missing more guns than had previously been reported, Sheriff Paul Penzone revealed Friday.

It’s now known that at least 50 of the agency’s firearms aren’t accounted for, Penzone said during a press conference.

He also announced that he was temporarily suspending the department’s armed volunteer posse after finding out that only four of its 235 members had gone through all six stages of required certification.

The department has been auditing its gun inventory since an October incident in which a rifle used by a suspect in a shootout on Interstate 17 turned out to have been the agency’s property.

Penzone said 15 fully automatic weapons had been classified as missing or stolen as the result of an audit completed before he took office in 2017.

With help from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives records, the MCSO was able to determine that 14 additional fully automatic weapons, 20 short-barrel shotguns and one short-barrel rifle also weren’t accounted for, Penzone said.

“Thus far during the audit, there has not been a single indication to show that any of those weapons have gone missing from this organization since I’ve taken office,” he said.

To keep track in the future, Penzone said all MCSO employees and volunteers will have to bring in their county-issued and privately owned weapons used for law enforcement duties to be documented every year.

“This is as aggressive a step that I can think of to ensure that every individual in this organization is responsible to recognize that the property of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is the property of Maricopa County residents, and we have to be accountable,” he said.

In addition, the department was reaching out to about 7,300 current and former employees and volunteers who might have knowledge about the missing weapons, which had been acquired between 1959 and 2006.

Penzone pointed a finger at poor record keeping during Joe Arpaio’s 24-year tenure as sheriff that ended with Penzone’s election.

“It is unacceptable for any law enforcement agency to be this negligent, to not keep accurate records, and to allow for weapons to be distributed in a manner that doesn’t even have any oversight or accountability,” he said.

The Sheriff’s Posse is made up of unpaid citizens who provide support to the department in a variety of areas, including search and rescue, crime scene security, disaster relief and emergency details.

Penzone said the suspension will only impact the posse members involved in law enforcement-related actions, and they will be given the opportunity to complete their certification within 60 days.

He didn’t blame the volunteers, pointing to “the disorganization, the lack of standards and commitment to excellence by the organization historically.”

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