The union representing the U.S. Postal Service’s police force asked a federal judge to block a new rule that limits police to investigating mail theft only when it occurs on postal property.
The rule, issued by the Postal Service in late August, “threatens the integrity of the mails” on the eve of an election that will be “heavily dependent on mail security,” the union said in a court filing in Washington on Wednesday. Historically, the filing said, postal police officers have ventured outside Postal Service property to conduct surveillance and investigate theft on public roads and letter carriers’ routes.
A Postal Service spokesman declined to comment on the request or the rationale for the rule. But he said the “underlying factual and legal issues raised in the complaint” emerged before Postmaster General Louis DeJoy took over as postmaster general in June.
The court battle over the investigative authority of the police force comes as the Postal Service faces a slew of legal challenges over recent changes to how it processes mail that were instituted under the leadership of DeJoy.
Last week, a federal judge in Yakima, Washington, ordered a nationwide halt to the operational changes, arguing that the new procedures were meant to undermine the legitimacy of the election.
The postal police has taken issue with a different rule. On Aug. 25, David Bowers, the deputy chief inspector for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, issued a memo instructing police divisions to stop deploying officers on assignment outside postal real estate.
In its lawsuit earlier this month, the union said the rule violated its collective bargaining agreement and would cripple postal investigations.
The policy change “increases the likelihood of criminal activity against Postal Service employees and the U.S. mail,” the lawsuit said.
The case is Richardson v. United States Postal Service, 20-cv-2262, U.S. District Court, District of District of Columbia.
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