Orlando police Chief Val Demings lost her gun in a burglary of her city vehicle.
The theft happened weeks ago, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office, but did not become public until late Tuesday, when a tipster alerted the Orlando Sentinel.
"It was devastating enough for me to be the victim of a crime and have my service weapon stolen after 25 years on the job," Demings said in a telephone interview. "I need to do everything possible to get my gun off the street."
The 9mm Sig Sauer pistol was stolen the night of Feb. 27 and discovered the next morning. The weapon was left in a duffel bag inside her agency sport utility vehicle, which she parked outside the home she and her husband, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, share in an unincorporated area of the county.
"I never leave my gun in the car
, but I did that night because we were expecting guests for the weekend and they had young children," Demings said. "We are allowed to store our [weapons] in the trunk or passenger compartment as long as they are out of plain view. It was clearly out of plain view."
The break-in and theft of her duffel bag and its contents were reported the same day to the Sheriff's Office. A report of the crime was not available late Tuesday.
Demings said she reported the theft to her agency's Internal Affairs department to investigate whether she broke any policies. And she said she told Mayor Buddy Dyer that someone had stolen her gun.
A major focus of Orlando's campaign to reduce violent crime is removing illegal guns from city streets. Stolen guns, by the nature of the crime, end up in the hands of criminals.
As deputy police chief in 2007, Demings ordered off-duty officers to store city-issued AR-15 assault rifles at police headquarters after three of the weapons were stolen. Storing rifles and shotguns near the driver's seat is a common practice to make the weapons immediately accessible during a crisis.
Since 2007, the Police Department has replaced all of its in-car gun locks and outfitted all new police vehicles with alarms.
While Orlando policy allows officers to leave guns in unoccupied, locked vehicles, other police agencies follow different policies.
Her husband's department, for instance, prohibits its nearly 1,500 deputies from leaving guns in patrol cars and undercover vehicles. The reason for the rule was demonstrated in late 2006 when teens stole a submachine gun with a silencer, a .308-caliber assault rifle and a .45-caliber pistol from a SWAT team member's unmarked SUV.
Gun thefts from Orlando police vehicles have been an infrequent but persistent problem for several years. Thefts from Orange County residents' cars pose a much more serious threat.
In 2002, the Sentinel found that 193 of 680 guns stolen in the county were taken from parked cars. That year, Florida ranked fifth nationally in that regard, with 7,434 firearms reported stolen.
Since the 1990s, several dozen murders have been committed in Central Florida with stolen handguns. None of those has been linked to thefts from police officers.