Editorial

Arroyo Grande police chief's gun mistake made into an opportunity

Theft of police chief’s weapon prompts an examination of off-duty storage policies

letters@thetribunenews.comAugust 21, 2013 

Arroyo Grande police Chief Steve Annibali speaks during a news conference in 2011.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

Arroyo Grande’s police chief — who recently made headlines when his gun was stolen from his vehicle — deserves credit for not only re-examining his own department’s policies on storage of weapons, but also for broadening the conversation to include other agencies.

Some background: In July, Chief Steve Annibali’s handgun, ammunition, badge and ID were stolen out of his locked, unmarked police car. Annibali acknowledged violating city policy by leaving the car parked on the street, rather than in a driveway or garage, and by storing the gun in the interior of the car, rather than the trunk. He was disciplined, though because it was a personnel matter, the city did not disclose what action was taken.

It’s human nature to try to get past embarrassing incidents as quickly — and quietly — as possible.

Not Annibali. As he recently told Tribune reporter Julia Hickey, “We’ve got to make a positive out of this negative.”

Annibali has invited representatives from local law enforcement agencies — including federal and state agencies — to a series of discussions about off-duty handling of firearms.

Good for him. This problem, after all, isn’t unique to Arroyo Grande; similar incidents occurred in 2008 in Paso Robles, when a gun was stolen from an unlocked car belonging to then-Paso Robles Police Chief Lisa Solomon, and in 2011 in San Luis Obispo, when two guns were stolen from a personal car belonging to Paul Brown, who was then with the Morro Bay Police Department.

Clearly, it’s not safe to leave weapons inside the interior of vehicles parked on the street.

But how should guns be secured when officers are off-duty?

There are differing opinions, though there does appear to be a general consensus that the “best practice” is to store weapons in a locked safe inside the officer’s residence.

We’ll leave it to local law enforcement leaders to determine whether there should be exceptions to this — for example, allowing guns to be stored in a locked bag left inside the trunk of a car.

Whatever the ultimate decision, we strongly urge that every law enforcement agency operating within San Luis Obispo County develop a written policy that clearly spells out what is and is not allowed — along with the consequences for officers who do not follow the letter of the law.

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