The Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency have been suspended from participating in the federal program that provides surplus military rifles to law enforcement agencies, reports the Tennessean.
In the case of TWRA, the suspension resulted from a gun being stolen from an agency truck. Two rifles provided to the Highway Patrol went missing in 2013 and a personnel shakeup occurred afterwards.
TWRA officials expect to be reinstated to the program, which provides guns it uses to control wild hogs.
The THP captain retired more than a year ago, after two M-14 rifles went missing, according to Dalya Qualls, spokeswoman for the highway patrol. A lieutenant also was suspended and transferred, she said, and the missing guns remain under investigation.
Both agencies were suspended from the federal program that provides military surplus gear to law enforcement agencies. President Barack Obama has ordered a review of the program — which has given $121 million in gear to Tennessee — in the aftermath of clashes between police and demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo., last month.
State officials said four agencies have been suspended from the program. The Columbia Police Department and the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department are the other two.
“Some of (the missing weapons) were uncovered in audits,” said David Roberson, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of General Services. “Exactly why (the rifle) missing is subject to investigation.”
Under the surplus program, local agencies cover just the cost of shipping or transportation and agree to spot checks and inventory reviews. They’re required to report missing, stolen or damaged items.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol reported two missing M-14 rifles in the spring of 2013. When they couldn’t be found, the “accounting errors” led to the forced retirement of a Special Operations captain and the suspension and transfer of a lieutenant.
Qualls said THP Col. Tracy Trott recently decided to end that agency’s participation in the program altogether because of internal accounting hassles and a decreased need for the equipment. The THP has received more than $3 million in equipment, state data show.
“They may not be acquiring any more equipment. They will have to maintain those on the inventory,” Roberson said.
TWRA, meanwhile, will be reinstated, Roberson said.
A game warden had an M-16 rifle stolen out of his state-owned truck near Tullahoma. Police later made an arrest and located the rifle, Roberson said.
“It was reported immediately, and part of protocol is that you’re automatically suspended,” said Darren Rider, TWRA colonel of boating and law enforcement.
TWRA received 235 M-16 rifles last year — one for each commissioned officer — which were a major upgrade from the pistols and shotguns they carried before, Rider said.
“There was no other funding source to obtain a rifle, so this program certainly made that come to fruition,” Rider said. “It gave us that ability to be better enforcement officers.”