After Sheriff Bilal won the primary election — becoming Philadelphia’s first female Sheriff —but prior to her transition into the role, it was brought to her attention that many improprieties had transpired in the Armory.
Bilal, being a retired Philadelphia Police officer for 27 years, realized the significance of such accusations and directed the individuals relaying the information to the City Controller’s Office so that an investigation, as well as an internal audit, could be conducted. Once she took office, she instructed her Chief Deputy to assist with the investigation by supplying any and all information requested by the Controller’s Office.
Furthermore, she began to address other issues with the Armory that were uncovered by her transition team.
The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office, under Bilal’s leadership, has fully addressed the issues identified in the investigation and report issued by the Controller’s Office regarding the Armory and the weapon inventory. Sheriff Bilal discussed the report and the work that has been done to address the concerns identified by the Controller at a press conference alongside City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart.
“We truly appreciate the work of the Controller’s Office to identify ways to improve the operation of the Sheriff’s Office,” Bilal said. “All of the issues identified in the Controller’s Report occurred under the prior administration, and my office has worked tirelessly to implement policies and procedures to correct the issues identified in the report. I am pleased to report that there are new internal audit procedures, our office has been using state-of-the-art weapon tracking software, and a full review of the inventory of both PFA and Service Firearms have been implemented and completed this year during my administration. All weapons have been inventoried. There is a new day in the handling of this office’s day-to-day affairs under my watch.” The Office of the Sheriff would like to note the following regarding the Controller’s Report:
1. The Sheriff’s Office has already made changes and addressed the concerns raised in the report.
2. As the Controller’s Office report notes, 71 weapons were gathered by the Sheriff’s Office during the investigation. Due to issues with inventory and paperwork preceding the current Sheriff, the report notes that it’s possible they may be PFA weapons or Rule 700 weapons. If that is true, the amount of unaccounted for weapons is reduced by that amount. See Report p.6 (PDF p.8).
3. It should be noted that the Sheriff’s Office under Sheriff Rochelle Bilal fully cooperated with the investigation. However, Controller’s Office staff experienced considerable pushback from the previous sheriff administration, including restricting access to the Armory and preventing interviews with relevant staff. See Report p.6 (PDF p.8).
4. As of November 17, 2020, all PFA weapons have been entered into the Armory system and all PSO weapons are in the process of being entered into the system. Further, destruction of PFA weapons has been coordinated with the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) Evidence Unit and all procedures have been implemented consistent with PPD policy. Further, all ammo has been separated from all weapons. It should be noted that The Sheriff’s Office has stated they have no way to verify the total of missing PFA weapons, because of the lack of documentation from previous administrations. Finally, as noted by the Controller’s Office, the Sheriff’s Office began tracking using state-of-the-art gun tracking software as of July 2020. See Report p.7 (PDF p.9).
5. The report specifically noted the lack of prior documentation regarding the inventory of PFA weapons in the Sheriff’s Office prior to the current administration, and that the process of determining the correct inventory as of January 2020 began under the new Sheriff’s administration. See Report pgs. 4-5 (PDF pgs. 6-7).
6. During the first six months of 2020, under Sheriff Rochelle Bilal, Armory staff reorganized all items in the PFA room of the Armory and created a master list of property receipts with the storage location of the associated weapon(s). After a spot check by Controller staff testing the accuracy of 20 randomly selected property receipts on July 16, 2020 and presented them to Armory staff to locate. According to the Controller’s Office, all weapons associated with the property receipts were easily located and accounted for by Armory staff. See Report p.14 (PDF p.16).