FOX 29 Investigates: Lost, Stolen Police Weapons

- A Philadelphia police officer was gravely wounded by an attacker using another cop's gun. Are there other firearms out there that shouldn't be? FOX 29 Investigates has learned Philadelphia police have lost or had stolen dozens of their own guns in recent years.

The finding comes after police Officer Jesse Hartnett was shot by a man claiming allegiance to terrorists. He used a gun stolen from an officer's home. FOX 29 investigative reporter Jeff Cole has this report.

The chilling images of an attempted assassination of a police officer on a West Philly Street and the wounded cop's frantic radio calls were a startling open to Philadelphia's new year.

The alleged shooter, Edward Archer, claimed an allegiance to the Islamic State.

"This is a criminal with a stolen gun who tried to kill one of our officers," Mayor Jim Kenney said.

That stolen gun, used to blast away at Hartnett, had not been swiped from the home of a civilian. It had been lifted from the residence of one of their own – a Philadelphia cop. It was reported stolen back in 2013.

"Was the officer whose gun was taken and used on Officer Hartnett, was he fired?" Cole asked.

"That officer was not fired, but the officer was disciplined," police spokesman Lt. John Stanford said.

Police refuse to name the officer or what his punishment was, but FOX 29 Investigates has learned his pistol was one of six reported stolen that year. A seventh gun was simply lost.

How do we know? FOX 29 Investigates made a records request with the police department. We asked for all weapons lost or stolen from 2010 through 2015.  We also asked for the names of the police officers whose weapon were lost or stolen and what, if any, discipline was imposed.

We didn't get the names, nor did we get the discipline, but we did get the numbers.

For the six-year period, 36 firearms were reported lost or stolen: four in 2010; 10 in 2011; five in 2012; seven in 2013; two in 2014; and eight in 2015.

Of the 36, nine were recovered.

"Is that small? Is that big? I mean, is there some way to describe it?" Cole asked.

"Well, I can't categorize and say if it's big or small," Stanford said. "But, I mean, the fact of the matter is one – one is one too many."

There are 6,300 Philadelphia cops. Every one of them is issued a firearm and a gun lock.

According to department rules, officers whose firearms are lost or stolen must tell the department within 24 hours.

An investigation determines if the officer will be disciplined or must pay the city back for the lost weapon.

Stanford says police must secure their firearms in their homes but, remember, the department gives them gun locks.

"Are they required to use the lock that the department issues when it's in their home?" Cole asked.

"To my knowledge, it's not a written requirement. But, again, you're required to have that weapon secured," Stanford said.

Cole also asked, "Why not require the gun lock be on the gun when it's in somebody's home, since you give it to them?"

"Well, again, I'll double check to see if that is a written part of the policy. It's been quite some time since I've come through the police academy," Stanford said.

He did check. It's not a written, mandated policy, but he claims it's stressed to officers on the gun range and taught to recruits.

When we told Mayor Kenney about it, he said he'd take it up with his top cop.

"Will you urge the commissioner?" Cole asked.

"I'm gonna talk to him," Kenney said.

"To require the guns be locked?" Cole followed-up.

"I'm gonna talk to the commissioner today and see what he has to say about it," the mayor said. "And then, I mean, I think it makes common sense to have your gun in your home locked up."

Stanford told us, "I wouldn't have the expectation that you would leave a gun sitting around, particularly if you have kids."

But it has happened. According to a report by the Police Advisory Commission, a watchdog group, from 2004 through '06, Philly cops left their guns in bathrooms, in vehicles, and one was placed in a bag and the bag was lost. The commission reported that weapon was later used in a homicide.

A gun was lost in a residence where a mentally ill man lived, and a cop lost his gun after he invited in friends to allegedly smoke some marijuana.

Philadelphia police are not the only ones to lose their firearms. Cops in Phoenix, Arizona, a sprawling city of 1.5 million (similar in size to Philly), but with fewer than half the officers, have lost more firearms.

According to Phoenix police, its cops had 65 guns lost or stolen over that same six-year period. They've recovered 19.

The department reports no officer was disciplined for a lost or stolen weapon from 2011 to 2015.

Philadelphia police claim they're taking another look at their firearms policy and believe it's strong, but the shooting of Hartnett with a fellow cop's gun is a blow unlikely to be soon forgotten.

Kenney did speak to Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who reviewed the policy. The department says it meets the needs of police and will not change, for now, Cole reported.

The police union says most cops are responsible with their weapons while at home and argues if it hadn't been a police gun used to shoot Hartnett, it would have been another.

Up Next:


  • Popular

  • Recent

Stories You May Be Interested In – includes Advertiser Stories