Postal Police Force
You were probably not aware that the USPS has its own law-enforcement division. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is one of the country's oldest federal law enforcement agencies, founded by Benjamin Franklin. These uniformed, armed officers are mandated to assure that the mail flows freely, to fight the mailing of illicit materials, and to thwart frauds and scams sent by mail. The postal police perform investigative and security functions essential to the stability of the postal system.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service also operates four forensic crime laboratories that are staffed with scientists and other technical specialists. These professionals assist the postal inspectors in analyzing material needed for identifying and tracing criminal suspects and in providing expert testimony for cases brought to trial.
The postal police have been empowered by Congress “to investigate postal offenses and civil matters relating to the Postal Service.” Some of the crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the postal police include:
Assaults: The protection of USPS employees is a very important responsibility. The postal police investigate assaults and threats directed at on-duty postal employees.
Bombs: Keeping deadly mail from reaching its intended target is, of course, a high priority for postal police.
Burglary: Inspectors investigate the more than 300 burglaries that involve the postal service every year.
Child exploitation: The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the leading federal law enforcement agency combating the production and distribution of child pornography and other crimes that use the mail to exploit children.
Controlled substances: Postal inspectors investigate crimes related to transporting and distributing narcotics through the mail.
Counterfeit stamps, money orders, and related crimes: Postal inspectors pursue people who forge, alter or counterfeit postage stamps, postal money orders, and other products. They also train postal employees to recognize bogus items.
Destruction, obstruction, and delay of mail: Postal police officers uphold federal statutes related to the desertion, obstruction, delay, or destruction of mail. Postal inspectors implement mail security processes to make sure customers receive their mail intact and free from outside interference.
Electronic crimes: Inspectors protect customers from fraud schemes and crimes that may occur online that involve the misuse of the mail. For example, inspectors try to thwart thieves who try to use or sell stolen credit card numbers or who use e-mail in schemes to defraud. Postal police also investigate people who use fake identities when sending e-mails to mislead or deceive recipients, as in spam.
Embezzlement: Postal inspectors investigate employees and contractors suspected of embezzling money and make sure that USPS financial controls are free from internal theft or abuse.
Extortion: Postal inspectors investigate shakedown and blackmail schemes when demands for ransom are sent through the U.S. mail. Inspectors also strictly enforce laws that prohibit people from using the mail to send threats.
Forfeiture: Postal inspectors use criminal and civil forfeiture statutes, when appropriate, to seize assets associated with criminal acts.
Identity fraud: The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is a “leading federal law enforcement agency in the investigation of identity takeovers, a crime that often begins with the theft of mail or use of the mail to defraud individuals or financial institutions.”
Mail fraud: The postal inspectors protect postal customers from misuse and abuse of the mail. They sniff out scams related to health care, insurance, investments, and other consumer frauds, especially those that target the elderly or other vulnerable groups.
Mail or mailbox destruction: The U.S. Postal Inspection Service ensures the safety of the mail by securing letterboxes or other depositories of the U.S. mail. The inspectors catch and arrest people who willfully destroy mailboxes.
Money laundering: Postal inspectors investigate criminals who attempt to conceal the profits of their nefarious deeds through monetary transactions. They identify and seize criminals' assets, denying violators their ill-gotten gains.
Obscenity and sexually oriented advertising: Postal inspectors uphold obscenity standards, which prohibit “obscene, lascivious, indecent, filthy or vile” mailings.
Robbery: Postal inspectors respond to robberies of postal employees and postal contractors.
Theft of mail: Postal inspectors bring substantial resources to bear in the investigation of mail theft by criminals, postal contractors, and postal employees.
Workers' compensation fraud: Thinking of faking an injury to get workers' comp benefits? Think again. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will be on the case.
Postal inspectors have the same police powers enjoyed by just about any other law-enforcement entity. They make arrests and serve search warrants and subpoenas. They work closely with other law-enforcement agencies to investigate cases and prepare them for prosecution in the courts. There are about 1,970 postal inspectors enforcing more than 200 laws. In addition to these plainclothes inspectors, there are some 1,100 uniformed postal police officers assigned to postal facilities across the land. They provide security, ride shotgun with valuable mail shipments, and perform other protection duties.