USPS Pulls All Postal Cops Off Streets Before Election, Because Reasons
Remember how back in August, Donald Trump's pet postmaster general, big GOP donor Louis DeJoy, promised he wouldn't do any more fuckery to the Postal Service until after the election, because people noticed his "reforms" had drastically slowed down mail delivery? Even with several courts ordering DeJoy to knock it off, everyone was rightly skeptical, particularly since DeJoy's pledge didn't include replacing any of the hundreds of sorting machines that had been dismantled nationwide. By mid-September, delivery times were still lagging from their pre-DeJoy norms in many parts of the country.
Thanks to some terrific, horrifying reporting by the Wall Street Journal, we now know that even after DeJoy's pledge, the Postal Service nonetheless took another action that might lead to problems with election mail, ordering its 455 uniformed Postal Police officers to, in effect, stand down and stop protecting the mails and postal carriers.
That order came to light as part of a lawsuit by the union that represents the officers, who have requested an injunction to put those orders on hold so they can go out and do their jobs again. It's some very serious shit, as the Journal reports:
The agency's unilateral 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 of the nation's biggest cities, according to interviews with police officers and union representatives opposed to the change and a copy of the directive. [...]
Mail thieves, in the past, often targeted mail for credit cards and checks. Now, the postal police officers said the fear is that thieves also will get ballots, which could be ditched.
Gee, wonder if that could possibly be a partial explanation for recent stories about stolen mail, including undelivered ballots, that have been making the rounds (with some wild exaggerations) in rightwing media? Nahh, probably just a coincidence!
Since the WSJ story is paywalled, here's its author, reporter Rebecca Smith, going over the basics with Rachel Maddow last night.
The president of the Postal Police Officers Association, Frank Albergo, told the Journal he wasn't especially reassured that the order was merely a routine clarification of the postal police's mission, given the timing, saying, "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."
Kids, we think we've finally found a police union we like.
In addition to the uniformed officers who had until recently been out on the streets protecting mail and postal carriers, there are some 1,300 plainclothes postal inspectors who do detective stuff like investigating mail fraud. They already mostly work in offices, unlike the uniformed officers, who have shifts around the clock and are out there doing more "neither rain nor sleet nor gloom of night" stuff than postal carriers, who work days.
The government's justification for confining the uniformed officers to post offices is as Trumpy as you get: The Postal Service suddenly discovered that the mission of the Postal Police, which is to protect postal "property," doesn't mean mailboxes, delivery trucks, or the mail itself as it's being delivered by mail carriers. Instead, it really means real estate, so as of August 25, as the officers' complaint says, uniformed officers were ordered
to stop investigating and preventing mail theft and mail tampering, crimes against postal employees, and all community-policing efforts except within post office buildings.
See, this has nothing at all to do with Donald Trump's war on voting by mail! USPS leadership simply discovered that the Postal Police have been doing it wrong for pretty much their entire history, so please confine yourselves to the P.O. and make sure antifa supersoldiers don't storm the barricades. But no putting up barricades if you have to leave the parking lot.
For good measure, the Justice Department has moved to have the suit dismissed, claiming the officers' union lacks standing.
The order came down way back on August 25, just a few days after DeJoy said he would delay "reforms" to postal delivery operations, and the day after he reiterated that pledge in a congressional hearing. The Journal notes that, the very day DeJoy testified, Donald Trump
tweeted that the nation's mailboxes were a "voter security disaster" and posed the question: "who controls them, are they placed in Republican or Democrat areas?"
And we are dutifully reminded that the postal police union folks don't have any proof that the security of election mail is being harmed, just very strong suspicions. Jim Bjork, the union's business agent, said that if weakening security around the election wasn't the intent of the new orders, "then why not wait until after the election to neuter the postal police?" Not surprisingly, the USPS didn't see fit to offer a comment on that question to the Journal.
And just as we've seen in other Trump legal actions, the administration insists that it can do what it damn well pleases without having to justify it:
In a court brief, lawyers for the Postal Service said the agency has broad authority to define duties as it sees fit—including "whether to even employ Postal Police Officers." [...]
The order, which came from Deputy Chief Inspector David Bowers, said officers still could travel between postal buildings, such as post offices and mail-processing centers, while on duty but were "not to be placed into situations in which it would be reasonably likely that they would be compelled to exercise law enforcement authority."
You certainly wouldn't want police officers to enforce any laws, that's for sure. Isn't that what the "defund the police" kids are yelling about anyway, you liberal hypocrites? (It is not.)
Postal police and union reps told the Journal that the new regime of not enforcing laws had been emphasized in morning roll calls, when officers were
reminded of the new "standard operating procedure" requiring them to activate a "decision tree" before responding to calls concerning criminal activity off postal property.
Mmm-hmm. Definitely nothing to worry about there, then! We bet the Trump administration was simply worried the postal police might have been out there abusing their power. That has to be it. The Great Man just hates it when police operate beyond the scope of what's allowed.
Nothing to worry about! All is well!
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