On May 12, MPD leadership sent a departmentwide memo titled "MISSING RIFLES" that listed 25 serial numbers for rifles that couldn't be accounted for after a self-initiated audit of police property. The memo directed officers in possession of the rifles to return them immediately before the MPD reported the weapons stolen.
Assistant Chief Cherise Gause, who runs the department's property and evidence management section, told New Times this week that the actual number of missing rifles was 23 — one of the serial numbers listed in the memo was a duplicate and another rifle apparently did not belong on the list.
As of Monday, 12 of the 23 rifles had been located and returned to the MPD. The remaining 11 have now been reported stolen, according to Gause.
The MPD has said the loss of the rifles was not caused by any kind of breach or theft, but by deficient record-keeping when the weapons were signed out.
"It was sloppy bookkeeping," Chief Art Acevedo said during a May 18 radio interview on WIOD's Brian Mudd Show. "When you're talking about firearms and very high-caliber deadly weapons, we've gotta have a better system in place."
Gause says one of the deficiencies involved the MPD's rifle-training courses. When rifles were used for training, the instructor would use their own name to sign out rifles for the trainees. If 20 people signed up for the training course but only 15 showed up, Gause says, previous record-keeping policies caused a breakdown wherein the extra rifles sometimes weren't returned and it wasn't clearly documented who had them.
The MPD now has a computerized system that Gause says will track every piece of equipment issued to an officer. Going forward, rifles signed out for training courses will be assigned to the individual officers in the course rather than to the instructor.
Gause says the MPD's training unit turned in a number of the newly recovered rifles, while others were turned in by active officers who realized their rifles matched the serial numbers listed in the memo.
As for the remaining 11 rifles?
MPD is still investigating where they might be. Gause says the department has reached out to retirees about the AR-15s, and it's possible that officers who are no longer with the department might still have rifles they took home and never returned.
The case of the missing rifles is only the latest episode of sloppy property management that has landed the MPD in hot water.
Local blogger Al Crespo revealed in 2016 that the department was keeping murder case evidence in a rusty storage container under I-95, allowing water and pests infiltrate the container and destroy evidence in at least 500 cases.
Then, in 2017, 11 revolvers used for a training program disappeared from MPD storage units, prompting a state probe into the missing guns. According to the Miami Herald, the guns still haven't been found.
In an internal bulletin from 2019, the MPD warned officers not to keep sensitive items unattended in their vehicles, after guns and other police equipment were stolen from police cruisers in four separate break-ins.
Gause says that whoever is found to be in possession of the 11 stolen AR-15s will be subject to legal action, even if they're current or former officers.
"As a department, we are going to prosecute to fullest extent of the law, should anyone be in possession [of the rifles]," she says.