By Brett Gillin
The Flint Police Department seems to have a big problem with their guns. Not only do many people feel that the department simply has too many guns for their modestly-sized police force, but there’s also the fact that more than a few of the guns registered to the department have gone missing throughout the years. Making matters worse is the fact that these guns have been used to commit crimes throughout Michigan.
According to this story on Mlive.com, a total of 39 guns belonging to Flint police have been reported as stolen, lost or missing. One of these is a sub-machine gun, and another is a short-barreled shotgun, along with a number of service pistols. The report claims that due to poor record keeping, questionable gun storage habits, and a series of break ins, these guns have gone missing from the Flint police inventory throughout the years.
The scope of the problem wasn’t brought to light until February of this year, when the Flint Police Department finally did a thorough inventory of all of their guns. The inventory showed that for their 114 active officers, the city has 200 service pistols, 136 shotguns, 78 AR-15 rifles, and a smattering of sub-machine guns and gas guns. Flint Police Chief James Tolbert told reporters that the department is looking to shrink their number of guns so that it better reflects the current needs of the department.
One of the more high-profile cases of a missing police-registered gun being used in a crime involved a 15-year old boy. According to reports, Flint police Officer Cary Wooster left his Smith & Wesson .45-calibre service pistol underneath the driver’s seat of his car one day. When the car broke down, he failed to remove the gun, instead locking the door and getting a ride from a fellow police officer to the department. When he went back to retrieve his car, the pistol was missing.
A little more than a month later, a 15-year-old boy found the gun next to a convenience store, buried under a pile of leaves. He and a friend decided that they were going to use the gun in a crime. The two boys contacted a local drug dealer and told him they were looking to purchase marijuana. When the dealer delivered nearly a half-pound to the boys, they flashed the gun and told him they wouldn’t be paying for the drugs.
While the two boys ran away from the dealer, the gun went off and shot the boy in the leg. Although the injury was non-life threatening, the story could easily have ended much more tragically. As it stands, police were able to recover the gun and charge the boys with carrying a concealed weapon, receiving and concealing stolen property, and marijuana charges.
Several other stories have also come out of the investigation. One states that a 9 mm service pistol was stolen from a school liaison officer in 1994, but wasn’t reported or discovered by the department until 2002. Another shows that an officer’s house was targeted by burglars, who made off with a 9 mm service pistol that was later used in the commission of a crime in Detroit.
To combat the problem, Chief Tolbert has instituted a twice-per-year mandatory inventory of all guns throughout the department and is tightening up the procedures and paperwork processes to ensure that these problems don’t happen in the future.