Internal memo sent to Southern California law enforcement agencies describes situation as an “emerging problem”; does not acknowledge local officer being investigated
Published : Friday, April 14, 2017 | 5:59 AM
Two months after federal agents from the U.S. Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) reportedly seized a cache of weapons from the Sierra Madre home of a Pasadena police officer — who has never been officially named — the head of the ATF’s Los Angeles office sent a memo to Southern California police chiefs and sheriffs saying the agency has found local law enforcement officers buying and reselling guns in what could be violations of federal firearms laws.
The internal memo from Los Angeles Field Division Special Agent in Charge Eric Harden, which was obtained and first reported by the Los Angeles Times, described the situation as an “emerging problem,” and describes a “growing trend of law enforcement officials engaging in the business of unlicensed firearms dealing.”
The March 31 memo also reported that some officers had purchased more than 100 firearms, and some of the guns were later recovered at crime scenes. But, according to Harden, the goal of the memo was “to educate, not investigate, to ensure law enforcement officials comply with federal law in order to avoid unnecessary public embarrassment to themselves and your department/agency.”
The memo focused on the purchase and resale of “off roster” firearms, guns not on an approved list of weapons that can be sold to the public.
Asked if the memo is connected with the investigation of the Pasadena police officer whose home was searched on Feb. 16, Ginger Colbrun, ATF public information officer, told Pasadena Now “the Los Angeles field division discovered some law enforcement officers who do not have a federal firearms license purchasing ‘off roster’ firearms and reselling those firearms to non-law enforcement entities for a profit, so as a result, ATF issued an advisory to law enforcement explaining the federal firearms regulations that apply to buying and selling firearms.”
Colbrun added, “I can’t acknowledge how many cases or whether an individual is part of an investigation or isn’t a part of an investigation. It’s a matter of Department of Justice policy not to comment on an ongoing investigation.”
When asked if any Pasadena police officers are being investigated by the ATF for illegal gun selling, Pasadena Police Lt. Tracey Ibarra said, “I don’t have the details of the investigation by ATF. That would be an administrative investigation, which is kept as a confidential matter. They don’t arbitrarily share it with all members of the organization.”
Ibarra confirmed that Pasadena Chief of Police Phillip Sanchez had received the ATF memo.
The memo was primarily concerned with the lack of a license by any officers who may be selling weapons.
California Penal Code 26500 PC makes it a misdemeanor to sell, lease or transfer firearms without a valid permit. Each violation of the law can result up to six months in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine. Meanwhile, according to a 2011 Associated Press investigation, police officers in California legally bought 7,600 assault weapons and high-capacity magazines between 2001 and 2011.
Certain exemptions in the law allow sworn peace officers to purchase such weapons, and also allows officers to resell the guns under certain conditions.
No law enforcement officers, including the Pasadena officer from whom weapons were reportedly seized, have yet been arrested or convicted of any federal firearms violations.