More than half the police officers at the 172 Veterans Administration hospitals had criminal records, lacked adequate experience or left previous jobs under a cloud, an internal audit has found.

The VA inspector general's office reported that most agency medical centers and clinics had not performed proper background checks on police applicants before hiring them.The audit found that 10 percent of the 1,742 VA police officers had previously been arrested on such charges as murder, rape, armed robbery, assault and embezzlement and were convicted on related counts.

Dozens more were convicted of crimes once they began working at VA facilities, according to projections from the Sept. 30 audit, which was obtained by United Press International under the Freedom of Information Act.