More than mailmen with guns

"The Inspection Service is one of the oldest law enforcement agencies in the country and has a reputation for quality investigations," explains U.S. Postal Inspector Lawrence Dukes Jr. "Inspectors get to work a variety of investigations, specializing in...


The United States Postal Inspection Service has a rich history based in the formation of our country and established by our forefathers. From 1737 when Benjamin Franklin was given the task of regulating post offices and holding postmasters accountable, through present day, the service has been a limb of the law enforcement, of crime prevention and the security arm of the U.S. Postal Service.

"The Inspection Service is one of the oldest law enforcement agencies in the country and has a reputation for quality investigations," explains U.S. Postal Inspector Lawrence Dukes Jr. "Inspectors get to work a variety of investigations, specializing in crimes impacting the USPS, its employees and customers: the American public."

The Service has three main purposes. First, to assure American businesses they can safely dispatch funds, securities and information through the mail. Second, to ensure postal customers can entrust their correspondence to the U.S. Mail and third, dedication to providing a safe environment for postal employees.

"Inspectors take pride in the ability to protect the USPS employees and the American public from any potential items mailed that could be dangerous or physically and/or financially harmful," Dukes says. "In the course of our duties, inspectors are exposed to various levels of crimes and with various federal, state and local law enforcement agencies."

Members of the Inspection Service are not just mail carriers with guns. Each is a professionally trained federal law enforcement officer with a unique mission. This group of officers is often overlooked but their work has an important impact on the community. In 2009, postal inspectors arrested more than 7,000 suspects for crimes involving the mail or against the Postal Service. The process to become an inspector is similar to other law enforcement agencies, but with a few nuances.

Hiring and academy

To be considered as an inspector, a candidate must be a U.S. citizen between the ages of 21 to 36. The candidate must possess a conferred, four-year degree from an accredited college or university, be in good physical condition and able to meet the agency's height/weight proportion. Other requirements include demonstrating cognitive attributes, no felony convictions or misdemeanor convictions of domestic violence and the must hold a current, valid state driver's license for at least two years. In addition to these basic requirements, the Postal Inspection Service values special knowledge.

Currently the Inspection Service recognizes four special knowledge tracks that make applicants more competitive. First, advanced competency in a foreign language deemed necessary to meeting the Postal Inspection Service's mission, including Spanish, Arabic, Armenian, Czech, Urdu, Thai and Serbo-Croatian. Second, postal experience that includes candidates who have been a U.S. Postal service employee, contractor or intern within the last two years. The third track is specialized non-postal experience, including military, a law degree, certifications in auditing or investigations, specialized computer education or experience, certifications in computer systems, law enforcement and bioterrorism investigations. Fourth, academic achievement, which includes combinations of degrees, work experience and cumulative grade point averages of 3.0 or higher for a bachelor's degree or an advanced degree.
Once selected, postal inspectors attend basic inspector training at the Inspection Service's Career Development Division (CDD) in Potomac, Md., a fully accredited federal law enforcement academy. The academy runs approximately 12 weeks and is designated for the specific use of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Weapons

During the academy, inspectors are issued and qualify with their service weapon. This includes a handgun as well as qualifying with a shotgun. The rigorous training allows beginning through advanced students the opportunity to become proficient in safely handling and discharging a weapon.

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