A U.S. Postal Service order to pull its uniformed police officers off city streets has started a legal battle pitting it against a police union as the agency is already under scrutiny for delivery delays in a presidential election that could hang on mail-in ballots, reports the Wall Street Journal. The order ended daily patrols meant to prevent robberies of blue collection boxes and mail vehicles, and has left letter carriers without escorts on unsafe routes in some big. Thieves have often targeted mail for credit cards and checks. Now, postal police officers fear that thieves also will get ballots, which could be ditched.
The union representing the officers filed a federal lawsuit in Washington, D.C., seeking an emergency reversal of the order, noting the need to “ensure the integrity of the mail.” The Justice Department has asked the federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the court lacks jurisdiction. The management directive didn’t explain why the police duties were being curtailed. Frank Albergo, president of the Postal Police Officers Association, said the order to stand down, coming close to the election, is concerning. “If I was going to undermine public trust in the mail, one of the first things I would do is pull postal police off the street,” he said. In addition to 455 uniformed officers, who report to the law enforcement arm of the Postal Service, the service employs another 1,300 plainclothes inspectors who function like detectives. The legal battle comes at a time when the Postal Service has struggled with mail delays, which it has blamed on the pandemic and staffing shortages.