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Who’s Watching the Mail Box?
By Bob Levi
NAPS Director of Legislative & Political Affairs
During the waning days of the 2022 election campaigns and at the launch of the 2022 holiday mailing season, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service apparently broadcast a missive that was picked up by many news sources. It went viral and has threatened to undermine further confidence in the national mail system.
The media conveyed this postal alert to many areas of the country. The Inspection Service’s message could have not have come at a worse time and unintentionally may have suppressed absentee voting by mail.
In late October, online, televised and printed news media reported that postal officials were cautioning Americans against using mail collection boxes for depositing outgoing mail, particularly in the afternoon (i.e., after the last mail pickup) and during weekends. The bottom line is the Inspection Service declared it was not able to safeguard postal property, a function for which it is tasked to do under existing law.
The Postal Service’s capability to protect mail, property and personnel associated with our national postal system is paramount and written in statute. For many Americans, post offices may not be conveniently located or accessible and office hours have been reduced. Mail collection boxes fill the void.
The agency’s law enforcement arm, the Postal Inspection Service, is charged with, among other functions, protecting the security of postal employees, facilities and equipment. This role is underscored by the fact crimes against postal activities are enumerated under federal law.
Yet, for over two years, the postal law enforcement agency has strived to disengage from ensuring the sanctity of the mail and protection of postal property and personnel unless the mail, property and personnel are located within the strict confines of a postal-owned or -leased facility. Consequently, mail, property and personnel beyond the defined borders of such postal facilities are unprotected. This purposeful retreat leaves mail collection boxes as “soft targets” for postal crime.
NAPS has been working side by side with the Postal Police Officers Association, an affiliate of the Fraternal Order of Police, to restore the full authority of the postal police force to protect, enforce and investigate all crimes against mail and postal personnel and property. In the current Congress, NAPS has supported legislation introduced by Reps. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) to clarify that postal police protection of mail, property and personnel is not at the discretion of the Inspection Service’s leadership—it’s part of the Postal Service’s core mission.
As readers may recall, in September, NAPS President Ivan D. Butts testified before the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations. As part of his presentation, he decried the two-year-old jurisdictional restraints Postal Inspection Service leadership imposed on its police officers.
In addition, Butts advised the subcommittee of how the agency appears to have retaliated against NAPS Branch 51 President Butch Maynard for his support of legislation to restore the protection of mail, personnel and property. Now, in part, because of the Postal Inspection Service’s ill-advised, self-imposed policies, mail boxes are left exposed and vulnerable.
And, as a consequence, the Inspection Service felt the need to caution postal customers about using a convenient and accessible means of voting and depositing letters. NAPS believes that postal customers and the nation, as a whole, would be better served by vigorous and effective postal law enforcement and property protection by restoring the authority already afforded to the postal police force.
By the time you receive this issue of The Postal Supervisor, we will have a good idea of the composition of the 118th Congress, which convenes the first week of January. Notwithstanding which party holds the majority in either or both houses, NAPS will have its work cut out.
We should anticipate that the federal budget will play a prominent role in congressional deliberations next year. We also should expect that the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over the Postal Service will exercise their oversight functions to evaluate implementation of the Postal Service’s 10-year plan, aka “Delivering for America.”
By the time you receive this magazine, it is our hope President Biden will have made his intentions clear about the future governance of the Postal Service through his nominations to the Postal Board of Governors and Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). The terms of Govs. Donald Moak and William Zollars expire on Dec. 8; the terms of PRC Commissioners Robert Taub and Mark Acton expired in October.
All four may continue to serve as “holdovers” through the confirmation of a replacement or for one year after their term expires, whichever comes first. The President renominated former PRC Chair Robert Taub in mid-September.
In the meantime, as you can view in other sections of this issue, NAPS’ Legislative Training Seminar (LTS) plans are well underway. So, as you make plans for the holiday season, also make plans to attend LTS, March 26-29. Have a joyous holiday season.