By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Aug. 26 — The Page County Sheriff’s Office remains under suspension from a federal program that provides surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies after a handgun issued by the agency to the local department went missing in May.
“As of May 20, 2021, the Page County Sheriff’s Office has been SUSPENDED from the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) program operations for a minimum of 180 days for a stolen LESO program small arm (Glock Model 23, Serial Number MPC882),” reads a May 24 letter from Franyate Taylor, Deputy Director of the Defense Logistics Agency based in Battle Creek, Mich., which administers the LESO program. The letter was directed to Lt. Chris Clark, DLA’s Virginia state coordinator, based near Richmond.
“On May 17, 2021, the small arm was stolen from a deputy’s possession,” the letter continues. “The deputy reported that the small arm was in his locked assigned patrol vehicle. The small arm didn’t have two layers of security applied. The State Coordinator’s Office was informed of the stolen small arm on May 18, 2021. This is the second small arm incident for the Page County Sheriff’s Office.”
When Page Valley News inquired about the incident earlier this month, Page County Sheriff Chad W. Cubbage reported that the missing handgun had been located within three days and was simply misplaced, and not stolen.
“On May 17, 2021 while completing an inventory of equipment, a deputy could not locate a Glock Model Serial Number MPC882 assigned to the deputy. It was originally thought that the weapon may haven been stolen, however, an accounting error led to the assumption that the weapon was stolen,” Sheriff Cubbage replied in a written statement. “The necessary steps were taken to report the weapon stolen to the Virginia State Police, per DLA LESO regulations. Within approximately 72 hours, the weapon was located and accounted for in a secured office within the Page County Sheriff’s Office.”
When asked about the “second small arm incident” referenced in the DLA letter, Sheriff Cubbage stated that “the [first] incident was under a previous administration.”
The misplacement of the handgun and the subsequent report of it being stolen has now resulted in a six-month suspension from the federal equipment program that is expected to last into November. DLA stated in its May 24 letter that “in order for LESO to consider lifting the suspension,” the sheriff’s office must submit:
• A Corrective Action Plan approved by DLA LESO detailing “new accountability measures and added security procedures put in place to prevent any future” incidents.
• A comprehensive report “describing the circumstances surrounding the loss and the Page County Sheriff’s Office’s efforts to retrieve the small arm.”
• Proof of “entry into the National Crime Information Center.”
• A copy of a “current, signed State Plan of Operations between the Page County Sheriff’s Office and the State of Virginia.”
The Page County Sheriff’s Office must also submit an application for reinstatement to the LESO program to the state coordinator for review, according to the May 24 letter. The state coordinator must then submit a request in writing to DLA for reinstatement of the local agency that verifies everything in the Corrective Action Plan is “complete, implemented and accurate.”
The DLA’s letter, which was copied to County Administrator Amity Moler and Page County Board of Supervisors Chairman Morgan Phenix, stated that the sheriff’s office had two weeks from the date of the letter to submit all requested documents and plans. Failure to do so, the letter stated, would “result in further administrative action, which may lead to the forfeiture of future or current property.”
Sheriff Cubbage said earlier this month that his department has submitted a Corrective Action Plan, and it has been accepted by the agency.
“Due to the report of a possible stolen DLA LESO weapon, the DLA LESO program issued a suspension of the Page County Sheriff’s Office’s ability to obtain additional equipment from the DLA LESO, until a corrective action plan was in place and approved,” Sheriff Cubage stated in his written statement. “A corrective action plan was submitted to DLA LESO, and [we] have been notified that the corrective action plan has been approved by DLA LESO, and [we] are awaiting reinstatement.”
The Law Enforcement Support Office or LESO Program, facilitates 10 US Code 2576a, which originated from the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 1997, according to the DLA website. This law allows transfer of excess Department of Defense equipment that might otherwise be destroyed to law enforcement agencies across the United States and its territories.
No equipment is purchased for distribution, according to the website. All items were excess, which had been turned in by military units or had been held as part of reserve stocks until no longer needed.
Since its inception, the LESO program has transferred more than $7.5 billion worth of property. In Fiscal Year 2020, $252 million worth of property (based on initial acquisition cost) was transferred to law enforcement agencies.
Requisitions cover the gamut of items used by America’s military — clothing and office supplies, tools and rescue equipment, vehicles, rifles, and other small arms. Of all the excess equipment provided through the program, only 5 percent are small arms and less than 1 percent are tactical vehicles.
More than 8,000 law enforcement agencies across the country have enrolled in the program.