Chief Charlie Beck told reporters Tuesday he was "disappointed" when he first heard about members of the LAPD's elite SWAT unit buying and reselling guns at a profit of hundreds of dollars.
"It's an entity in the department that I depend on," Beck said. "It's an entity that this city stakes its life on. I hold them to the highest standards and I don't expect them to do this kind of thing."
Beck was speaking on the heels of a newly launched probe into whether SWAT officers violated any federal weapons laws, city ethics codes or department policy when they bought high-end .45-caliber pistols with a SWAT insignia from a weapons dealer that works with the city, and then sold the guns.
Speaking before the Police Commission Tuesday, LAPD Internal Affairs Commander Richard Webb described an initial investigation into the allegations as "thin," and promised a much more thorough accounting of what happened. He said the person who conducted the initial probe is no longer with the department, though it was not clear why.
Both Webb and Beck, while acknowledging actual information on where the guns ended up is scarce at the moment, speculated that they were likely sold to collectors.
Asked if it's possible the guns ended up in the hands of criminals, Beck said, "That is a concern, of course. I doubt it would happen."
The Kimber pistol in question, he said, is an "expensive, difficult to operate, difficult to maintain gun." He said that "as a police officer for 30 years, I've never seen one on the street."
Initial reports suggest anywhere from 51 to 324 guns were involved, though Beck said he could not give an exact number until an investigation is complete. Nor did he say how many officers are potentially involved.
At the moment, Commander Webb said, it appears that these were private transactions, involving no city money.
Beck stressed that even if officers involved are cleared of wrongdoing according to current laws and policies, he'll make sure new rules are written to prevent such transactions going forward.
"The police manual is very comprehensive," Beck said. "But it doesn't cover everything."