OAK HARBOR — A gun that the Oak Harbor police chief left in a supermarket bathroom was turned in Thursday night.
The recovery of the pistol is the culmination of an embarrassing incident that earned Chief Ed Green a written reprimand and coverage on TV news.
But it’s not the reason that Mayor Bob Severns is planning on making management changes in the police department.
Severns was aware of morale issues and in-fighting within the agency when he took office at the beginning of the year, so he conducted his own investigation. A year ago, the police union passed a no-confidence vote against Capt. Teri Gardner; the majority of officers voted against a no-confidence vote directed at Green.
Severns said he extended an invitation to all 37 employees in the department to meet with him. So far, he said, he’s met with 29 employees and several officials from other agencies.
Severns said he found “obvious concerns” about the way the department is run.
“I have absolutely no concern about public safety,” he said, “but there are definite issues with management.”
Severns wasn’t specific about what changes he may make in the department but said they’re likely to come this month.
The mayor concedes that the city’s handling of the missing gun incident could have been done better. He said his immediate concern was that the loss was reported to all of the appropriate government agencies, which it was.
The gun was lost March 4, just before Severns went to Washington, D.C., on city business. He’s new to the job, he said, and trusted the police to handle the incident in the appropriate manner.
Severns said he didn’t immediately think of sending out a press release or alerting the public, especially since it was a privately owned gun.
In fact, the theft or loss of guns in the city is not uncommon. During a six-week period beginning Feb. 1, there was at least three reports of missing or stolen guns in the city.
Severns issued a press release on the lost gun March 29, which is also when he gave Green the written reprimand; the reprimand was suggested by Green, who supplied much of the wording, the mayor said. Under police policy, officers who carry secondary handguns must ensure they are “concealed at all times and in such a manner as to prevent unintentional cocking, discharge or loss of physical control.”
Green violated policy by losing physical control, the reprimand states.
The Whidbey News-Times requested information about the incident earlier in March but didn’t hear back from the city until the press release was sent out.
Green wrote a short description of the incident, which the Whidbey News-Times received through a public-records request.
At about 7:30 p.m., he used the bathroom at Saar’s Marketplace in Oak Harbor. He took off his jacket and his personally owned, off-duty weapon and placed them in a “towel container.” He put his jacket back on before leaving but realized that he didn’t have his Glock when he got home.
He called the manager of Saars at about 8 p.m., but the gun couldn’t be located. After returning to the store and searching, Green went to the police station and reported the loss. He contacted the mayor and city administrator at about 9 p.m.
The press release and media coverage led to the return of the gun, according to a city press release issued Friday. An Oak Harbor resident contacted the police Thursday night and offered to turn the gun in.
The individual who turned the gun in was interviewed and is assisting police in an investigation to determine how the weapon was obtained, according to the press release.
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