Allegations that LAPD officers resold weapons for profit probed

Joel Rubin (Los Angeles Times) | August 25, 2012

A report released Friday by the Los Angeles Police Department’s independent watchdog raised serious questions about the possible resale of handguns by officers.

The allegations, if true, could be a violation of federal firearm laws and city ethics regulations.

The LAPD is now investigating whether members of its elite SWAT unit took advantage of their assignments to purchase large numbers of specially made handguns and resell the weapons for steep profits.

The ongoing inquiry is the LAPD’s second attempt to understand what happened with the handguns. Police officials opened the investigation only after Inspector General Alex Bustamante raised concerns that a previous attempt to look into the gun dealings had been badly “deficient,” according to Bustamante’s report.

Because the initial investigation was so lacking, little is known about the alleged gun sales. Bustamante’s report, which will be presented to the L.A. Police Commission on Tuesday, was based on the initial inquiry, which did not answer basic questions about the allegations, including how many officers were involved, the number of guns sold and when the sales were carried out. The LAPD’s current investigation is expected to be completed in about a month, Bustamante wrote in his report.

Suspicion about gun sales first arose in 2010, when the commanding officer of the LAPD’s Metropolitan Division, which includes SWAT, ordered an inventory of the division’s firearms, the report said. The officer responsible for conducting the count discovered that SWAT members had purchased between 51 and 324 pistols from gun manufacturer Kimber and were “possibly reselling them to third parties for large profits,” according to the report.

If the officers had purchased the guns for personal use, there would probably have been no suspicions raised. However, the possible resale of hundreds of guns by a unit of only 60 officers was unusual.

Kimber sold the guns, which bore a special “LAPD SWAT” insignia, to members of the unit for about $600 each — a steep discount from their resale value of between $1,600 and $3,500, the report said. The unique SWAT branding was first struck several years earlier, when the department contracted with Kimber for a one-time purchase of 144 of the pistols.

The inventory also discovered that two companies not affiliated with the LAPD — Cinema Weaponry and Lucas Ranch Gun Sales — were involved in the transactions with Kimber. Lucas Ranch Gun Sales was charging fees “for facilitating the transfer of the pistols from Kimber to officers,” according to the report.

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Photo credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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