What is a U.S. Postal Inspector?

What is a U.S. Postal Inspector? While the job title may lead you to believe it is someone who verifies that letters and packages have the proper postage, this occupation actually carries much weightier responsibilities. A U.S. Postal Inspector is a federal law enforcement agent responsible for investigating criminal, civil and administrative violations of laws related to the postal service and its use.

What is the U.S. Postal Inspection Service?

One of the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service was founded by Ben Franklin and empowered by Congress. It is a highly specialized organization that is responsible for protecting the customers, employees and infrastructure of the U.S. Postal Service. As the postal service’s law enforcement arm, the Postal Inspection Service has investigative powers and is charged with carrying out the security functions necessary to maintain the stability of postal service, assure public confidence in the security of the postal system, and provide all postal employees with a safe work environment. According to the US Postal Service, to support the 1,500 inspectors who are stationed all around the United States and in critical locations abroad, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service also runs a forensic crime lab with a staff of technical specialists and forensic scientists. In addition, more than 600 uniformed Postal Police Officers are responsible for providing security at critical facilities, escorting sensitive mail shipments, and performing other protection and support tasks.

What Does a U.S. Postal Inspector Do?

According to Business Week, U.S. Postal Inspectors are real law enforcement agents whose potentially dangerous job requires them to carry firearms while on duty, participate in firearms training and maintain their firing range qualifications. U.S. Postal Inspectors are expected to investigate possible crimes and suspicious activities, defend themselves and other people from imminent threats, give chase and properly restrain suspects they apprehend, testify in court cases, serve subpoena, execute federal search warrants, and prepare reports. With jurisdiction over all crimes that attack or misuse the postal service, they are responsible for enforcing over 200 federal laws related to the mail. Inspectors work with local prosecutors, federal attorneys and other law enforcement agents at the local, state and federal levels in cases involving physical threats, financial crimes, domestic and foreign terrorism, child exploitation, and a wide range of fraudulent activities, aiding in investigations and preparations for legal proceedings in court.

What Qualifications are Required to Become a U.S. Postal Inspector?

Only a small percentage of applicants are chosen to join the elite ranks of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service as U.S. Postal Inspectors, according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s website. To be eligible for consideration, candidates must be American citizens who have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and no domestic violence or felony convictions. They must be adults between the ages of 21 and 36 ½ who are capable of both speaking and writing in English. Because of the long, irregular work hours and the potential for dangerous, physically demanding situations, all applicants must be in excellent physical condition. They must also be willing to relocate in order to best serve the needs of the service.

Related Resource: Criminology

While the U.S. Postal Inspection Service may not have the same level of name recognition as the Federal Bureau of Investigations or the Central Intelligence Agency, it is a federal law enforcement agency that actively works to defend U.S. citizens. Despite the fact that many people do not know quite what a U.S. Postal Inspector is, these dedicated men and women work hard to protect the American public from a variety of threats.