An IG report has highlighted risks to employees of exposure to potentially highly dangerous substances as among the issues related to the sending of illegal drugs through the mail.
“Quickly identifying, isolating, and inspecting packages that may contain illicit drugs is crucial to prevent use of the postal network to distribute illicit drugs and protect postal employees from potentially dangerous exposure. This process becomes even more of a challenge with the increasing potency of illicit drugs and volume of packages in the mail,” a report said.
It said that employees who encounter a suspicious package are required to remove it from the mailstream and inform a supervisor, and the supervisor is required to secure the suspected package and notify the Postal Inspection Service. Inspectors will either pick up the package or request that it be mailed to the Inspection Service. That process “is labor intensive, thereby limiting the number of packages the USPIS is able to inspect,” the report said, recommending that it be automated.
Postal management disagreed, saying the investigations would be hindered by using a centralized approach and that processes already in place to temporarily detain and divert suspect packages to a centralized location when feasible. The IG disagreed in turn with that response, saying that “to reduce the time and risks associated with handling packages that may contain illicit drugs, there is an immediate need for the Postal Service and USPIS to automate the process of retrieving packages.”
“Automation may come in various forms, including adoption of technology or other ways to electronically identify and redirect suspect packages earlier in the mailstream – before the package arrives at the delivery unit. This could prevent harm or danger, deter criminal activity, affect drug investigations and prosecutions, and positively impact the Postal Service’s brand and the integrity of the mail,” it added.
Another employee-related issue regarding mailing of illegal drugs identified by the IG related to risk of postal workers colluding with illegal drug traffickers. That section of the report was heavily redacted, however, and showed only that the IG and management similarly disagreed over the adequacy of policies already in place.