Who are Postal Inspectors?
Postal inspectors work for the United States Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement agency of the United States Postal Service. They are responsible for enforcing the more than 200 federal statutes that relate to the USPS and the U.S. Mail. Together with the Postal Police, Postal Inspectors protect postal employees and ensures that mail is kept secure. They enforce all postal laws and conduct internal audits of the Postal Service and its employees. They also conduct criminal investigations and even present evidence to authorities of their investigations.
Postal inspectors usually work on issues that have to do with mail fraud, revenue protection, asset forfeiture, and mail theft. They also see to it that Postal Service channels are not used to perpetrate crimes like identity theft, child exploitation, and dangerous mail. They also work to protect against violent crimes and strive to keep the nation and the world secure.
Since they are federal law enforcement personnel, postal inspectors can serve warrants and subpoenas issued under the authority of the United States. They can even make arrests without warrants for postal-related offenses that they see are made in their presence or for postal-related felonies that are recognized as such under U.S. laws. They can also carry firearms and make lawful property seizures. If the jurisdiction of the United States Postal Inspection Service overlaps with that of other authorities at the federal, state, or local level then they also collaborate with them. Most of the time, the USPIS collaborates with other agencies on matters that have to do with U.S. Mail. For example, they come in when suspected child molesters are sending child pornography pictures through Postal Service channels. They also get involved in investigations related to fraud where the scammers try to use mail to send false statements and other erroneous propaganda.
Do postal inspectors have the authority to open mail if they suspect that it contains illegal stuff? They do not have such power with first-class letters and parcels since these are protected against search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. If they suspect something fishy in a particular first-class mail letter, they need to have a search warrant before they can open it. They may, however, open other classes of mail since these do not contain private correspondence.
The US Postal Inspection Service is headed by the Chief Postal Inspector who also reports to the Postmaster General of the United States. Other duties of the Chief Postal Inspector include acting as the security officer and defense coordinator and liaising with the other law enforcement agencies of the federal government. All postal inspectors report to the Chief Postal Inspector.