Philadelphia sheriff disputes controller report that her office can’t account for nearly 200 guns

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Philadelphia’s sheriff on Thursday disputed a city controller report that determined that the sheriff’s office couldn’t account for 185 guns that the controller’s office says are missing.

Sheriff Rochelle Bilal said at a news conference that the controller’s report released earlier last week contained “misleading statements,” and she questioned the controller’s review.

Acting City Controller Charles Edacheril said his office conducted the review as a follow-up to a 2020 report that found the sheriff’s office couldn’t account for more than 200 weapons. That report stated that the office had haphazard recordkeeping practices and unclear procedures regarding the handling of guns.

Some of the missing guns were part of the sheriff’s office’s arsenal and others were confiscated from people subject to protection-from-abuse orders.

Bilal, who took office in 2020, said earlier this year that her department had accounted for all but 20 of the guns cited in the 2020 report, and they were either located or found to have been disposed of or sold.

The controller, though, notified the sheriff’s office on Wednesday that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to account for 76 of its guns and 109 weapons that were surrendered to the office.

For example, 46 guns that were reported as “found” had supposedly been traded or burned. However, the only documentation offered for 36 of them was they were on a list of weapons in a folder labeled “Weapons Burn List” that did not include details such as when or where they were disposed of, the report stated.

The controller still considers the 185 guns unaccounted for and recommended that the office report them to police as missing.

On Thursday, Bilal said her office submitted a 159-page response regarding the guns on June 8 that included details of her office’s investigation, which concluded that 58 firearms had been found, 20 were still missing and 18 were presumed to have been traded or burned. Three guns on the controller’s list were duplicates, she said.

Bilal said her office had not been contacted since it submitted its report, calling into question how the controller’s office has handled the current investigation and its expectations.

“Simply put, we cannot answer inconsistencies that derive as a result of that recordkeeping in the past,” Bilal said, asking why audits were not done five or 10 years ago. She then displayed photos of what the department armory looked like when she took office: boxes of paperwork and firearms on the floor, on top of desks and in corners.

“Maybe if (audits had been conducted previously), maybe (the armory) wouldn’t have been in that condition. And there would be no presumption of missing guns,” Bilal said.