In April, Daniel J. Trammell attacked a postal service letter carrier while the letter carrier was simply delivering mail. The Postal Service employee suffered an injury to their neck. Earlier that same day, Trammell entered a post office, shouted at employees and threatened to shoot his letter carrier.
This of course was not the first threat that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has dealt with. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the nation was on edge bracing for additional waves of attacks, which ultimately did come with the anthrax scare. This dangerous attack emanated through the mail, just seven days after 9/11. The USPS was the unwitting victim, with its law enforcement officers, postal police and postal inspectors having to handle a very dangerous incident.
Today our pandemic is seeing similar dynamics at play, exacerbated by funding debates in Congress, as postal police and Postal Service inspectors are again caught in its crossfire.
The U.S. postal system is not only massive but it has been considered critical to our national security since its founding. Perhaps that is why the Founding Fathers included the postal system in the Constitution and originally listed the postmaster general as a Cabinet figure. It is also the reason the USPS has law enforcement agencies and an entire federal code dedicated to it — 18 U.S. Code Chapter 83.
Despite being equipped with security, mail theft is on the rise as USPS employees face an increased threat of assaults and continued attacks.
Still, even through escalated violence, postal service employees continue to aid in the delivery of 212 billion pieces of mail to over 144 million homes from 40,000 post offices, and they must continue to do so safely. Unfortunately, as it continues its operations, one of the Postal Service’s answers has been to cut its law enforcement operations.
For example, on Aug. 25, Deputy Chief Inspector David Bowers revoked postal police officers’ law enforcement authority, except when they are on property owned or leased by the USPS. This seems like the wrong strategy given its employees are sustaining increased attacks on the streets of America. If the postal police aren’t there to protect those employees and respond to these incidents, who will handle these crimes?
This change of operations has left a target on most postal employees and mail as well as using U.S. postal inspectors, who traditionally handle investigations of terrorism, international criminals, child predators and mail fraud, to fill the gap in some cases. So instead of focusing on fighting crime and protecting postal facilities, postal inspectors have been used for other law enforcement operations while postal police officers’ duties are further eroded.
Instead of the Postal Service letting their law enforcement officers protect, investigate and catch thieves who are “mailbox fishing,” they are trying to replace the old blue collection boxes with new and improved “fishing proof” collection boxes, which don’t stop mail theft but merely displace it. Now, instead of going after mail boxes, thieves are targeting mail carriers