Victoria Police has vowed to "reconcile" databases after 20 years of dodgy record-keeping resulted in the force losing track of almost 200 weapons, including semi-automatics, shotguns and pistols.
A Customs weapon seizure (Credit: Customs)
The lost weapons were exposed in an internal audit that found four isolated databases, which logged the locations of the police's thousands of weapons, were not being updated.
Of the 10,000 weapons on record, 186 could not be physically located, including an estimated three operational police revolvers and one long arm.
Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe said the databases were maintained by separate departments that were not interfaced.
"I don't think our record keeping is as good as it should have been," Walshe said.
"The weapons get moved around for servicing [and] records were not up-to-date or accurate. We have relied on various parts of organisation to maintain records of weapons — that hasn't happened.
"We think majority of weapons have been destroyed but records of destruction have not been reconciled with the databases."
He said it is "probable" that most weapons originated from the state police ballistics library for training and were marked for destruction, but noted the belief could not be validated against the scant databases.
The audit comes ahead of plans to deploy some 12,000 semi-automatic weapons and pistols within the Victoria Police service.
Walshe said those weapons will be labelled with bar codes and officers will be charged with maintaining them.
He said the databases will be "reconciled" but did not elaborate further.
Victoria Police came under fire last year for lax record keeping, after a state ombudsman report identified more than $100,000 of taxpayer funds were wasted on unused or under-utilised hosting facilities.
In one instance, the police services wasted a whopping $81,000 of public cash on a single communications facility that contained an empty cabinet. It noted further that the service could have saved an estimated $750,000 if the contract leaks were cleaned-up two year's earlier.
Walshe also said the Victoria Police LINK crime reporting database will recommence development after it was put on ice earlier this year due to unexpected technical problems and looming cost blow-outs.
The off-the-shelf system will replace the 15-year-old law enforcement assistance program (LEAP), which was plagued with reports of abuse during 2006 to 2008.
Victoria Police said it had a "clear understanding" of the recent weapons audit and the issues associated with it.
"The project is comfortable that the intended solution for new weapons recording and tracking is both reliable and suitable. Any merging of databases by the organisation will further add to the systems' efficiency and functionality," the Victoria Police said in a statement.
Victoria Police said that it would have all semi-automatic pistols recorded on two databases, one for regulatory/licensing purposes and the other for internal weapons tracking.
"Each database can be checked/audited at any time against the other," the statement said. "Every weapon will carry an 'info dot' for recording, tracking and audit, as well as the weapon having a weapon-specific serial number on the frame, barrel and slide."
Updated at 10:25am, 1 September 2010: added comment from Victoria Police.