The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the U.S. Postal Service’s law enforcement arm, has been operating for 246 years. William Goddard was the very first postal inspector - called surveyor at the time - to be hired to regulate post offices.
Some 1,200 inspectors now enforce the approximately 200 federal laws that pertain to federal mail. They investigate criminal activities, including mail theft and fraud, financial fraud, identity theft, cybercrimes, robberies and burglaries of postal facilities, and investigations of dangerous and prohibited items.
Their activities have influenced history. Postal inspectors reported on British fleet movements on the Potomac River in the War of 1812. In 1861, the agents supervised transportation of mail to the Union troops during the Civil War. And in 1941, inspectors organized mail system for the military in World War II, even to front-line troops.
By 1939, the agency employed more than 600 inspectors. It expanded to form the new Bureau of the Chief Inspector, which housed three branches for investigations into crimes involving mail, finance, and administration.
A year later, in 1940, the first Postal Inspection Service forensics labs was established in Washington, D.C. Forensics became so important to law enforcement that by 1946, the agency added four more labs to better support investigators.
As more inspectors joined the ranks, a shift in demographics followed. For nearly 200 years, the agency had operated without a single woman serving as inspector. That changed in 1971, when Janene Gordon and Jane Currie became the first female postal inspectors and were among the first women hired to be agents in any federal law enforcement agency.
The agency’s inspectors have played roles in bringing many high-profile criminals to justice such as that of Charles Ponzi’s pyramid scheme in 1920 and Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, in 1996. The inspectors have even been depicted in movies and TV shows.
Learn more about the USPIS as well as the latest trends and challenges facing postal security experts on the latest Voice Mail podcast episode with Gary R. Barksdale, USPIS Chief Postal Inspector and Chairman of the UPU Postal Security Group