- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

The nation's 1,400 uniformed, gun-toting Postal Police officers, who usually provide security for besieged post offices at tax time and for the mailing of the Oscar statuettes, now find themselves defending against anthrax.
U.S. Postal Inspector Lori Groen said after several letters containing the contaminant were discovered nationwide, post office workers have kept Postal Police busy with calls about suspicious substances resembling anthrax.
"Usually they're the first on the scene before the postal inspectors arrive, and they coordinate and evacuate personnel," Ms. Groen said.
Nearly a 10th of the Postal Police force, or 130 officers, work in the metropolitan Washington area, which includes Baltimore. About 34 of those officers are stationed at the U.S. Postal Service headquarters in Southwest.
Ms. Groen said she's not aware that any additional officers have been transferred to this area. She said officers have taken a more "hands-on" approach to security issues, manning X-ray machines and checking the bags of employees entering postal buildings.
Mark Wilson, president of the Fraternal Order of Police National Labor Council 2 in Auburn, Wash., which represents Postal Police officers nationwide, warned that the added duties are stretching the force to its limits.
"There has been some shifting of resources due to this situation," Mr. Wilson said. "I think it's reducing the protection to the outlying facilities because they are concentrating on the larger facilities."
He said officers who used to provide perimeter security, escort high-value mail shipments and respond to reports of burglary or workplace violence, also have been busy guarding abandoned facilities where anthrax has been found, including the Brentwood sorting facility in Northeast.
Two postal employees who worked at the Brentwood facility died last week as a result of anthrax inhalation.
The uniformed department, created by Congress in 1970 to assist the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, is charged with protecting all persons and property of the U.S. Postal Service by enforcing federal laws and postal regulations on Postal Service-controlled property.
Postal inspectors enforce more than 200 federal laws covering investigations of crimes involving the U.S. mail and the postal system. They are federal officers who carry firearms, make arrests and serve federal search warrants and subpoenas.
Postal Police officers undergo a 10-week, basic-training course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at Glynco, Ga. Applicants must pass a written test, an oral interview, a physical, a drug screen and a background investigation.


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