In a previous post about the USPS, their law enforcement agencies were briefly described. This post will go into further detail about the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the United States Postal Service Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
They are the major law enforcement agency of the Postal Service. Their authority is “crimes that may adversely affect or fraudulently use the US mail, postal system or postal employees”. They protect and support the USPS infrastructure, its employees, and customers. Also, they enforce the laws that defend the U.S. mail system from illegal or dangerous use.
Their history dates back to 1772, making them the oldest federal law enforcement agency in the U.S. They were the first federal law enforcement agency to use the title of Special Agent for its officers. However, Congress changed this title to Inspector in 1880.
As sworn FLEO’s, USPIS employees carry firearms, make arrests, and serve search warrants and subpoenas. They work closely with U.S. attorneys, other law enforcement agencies, and local prosecutors to investigate postal cases and prepare them for court. Particularly, with international cases, they work closely with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
They enforce over 200 federal laws and have a responsibility to more than 600,000 postal workers and billions of pieces of mail.
USPIS investigations fall into the following categories:
- Fraud—This involves crimes that use the mail to commit fraud against consumers, businesses, and government.
- External Crime and Violent Crime Teams—This group investigates any theft of the U.S. mail by non-employees. They also investigate robberies of postal employees and facilities and burglaries. Their investigative function focuses on maintaining the sanctity and trust in the U.S. mail.
- Prohibited Mailing investigations—These investigations focus on the prohibited mailing of contraband like narcotics, sexually prohibited material, and hazardous material including mail bombs, nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons.
- Aviation and Homeland Security—Included investigations are securing and protecting the transportation of U.S. mail and any risk that may compromise homeland security. Moreover, they conduct security audits to ensure that the postal service maintains its’ facilities security from theft, robbery, and natural and manmade disasters.
- Revenue Investigations—These investigations include cases where business and consumers commit fraudulent practices by mailing items without the proper postage or use counterfeit postage. This team investigates any crime that defrauds the USPS revenue.
- International Investigations and Global Security—They ensure that international mail stays secure and any international business decisions remain safe and secure. Additionally, they help maintain investigations in the U.S. and in posts around the world for protection.
- Joint Task Force Investigations—These investigators participate in joint task force investigations where laws applicable to the mail service are involved. They can be wide ranging and involve every law enforcement agency of the federal government.
There is also the Postal Inspections Services Technical Services Unit (TSU) who provide investigative support using new technology and the operations of two national communications centers.
Established in 1940, their first forensic lab has four units; Questioned Documents Unit, Fingerprint Unit, Physical Sciences Unit, and the Digital Evidence Unit.
They also have a uniformed force of Postal Police Officers assigned to major postal facilities throughout the U.S. They provide perimeter security and escort high-value mail shipments. Further, the PIS maintains a federally accredited law enforcement academy.
Created in 1996, the Office of the Inspector General assumed the oversight duties from the PIS. Independent of postal management, they are appointed by and report to the Board of Governors of the USPS. Their purpose is to prevent, detect, and report fraud, waste, and promote efficiency in the operations of the USPS. They try to do this by conducting independent audits and investigations. These audits help to narrow down which programs and/or operations are efficient and cost effective.
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