National Postal Museum Opens New Exhibition BEHIND THE BADGE Today
"Behind the Badge," a dynamic new exhibition opening today, June 27 at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum, will showcase the work of one of the nation's oldest federal law enforcement agencies. The United States Postal Inspection Service dates to 1776, when Benjamin Franklin first sent a surveyor to investigate the fledging nation's mail routes for efficiency and security. While post offices, postal employees and mail are common sights across the country, Americans may not realize that behind each is a network of U.S. postal inspectors working to keep the mail safe and empowering consumers to protect themselves and prevent crimes.
The exhibit offers visitors the opportunity to learn more about this little-known agency through some well-known cases that crossed their desks. Postal inspectors play a key role in restoring mail service and returning a sense of normalcy to communities shattered by natural and man-made disasters, from floods and wildfires to industrial explosions and terrorist attacks.
"When people think of the term 'first responders,' they may not realize that postal inspectors are part of that equation," said Allen Kane, director of the museum. "From 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina to Superstorm Sandy, some of the first boots on the ground were those of the dedicated men and women of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service."
Many people may be familiar with the high-publicity cases involving postal inspectors from the late-20th-century Unabomber to the October 2001 anthrax mail terror attacks. What many Americans may not consider is that the vast postal network, which reaches every home and business in the country, is often a tempting target for criminals. Postal inspectors work hard to protect that network, postal employees and the people who use the mail. When necessary, they collaborate with other law enforcement agencies-from local police departments to Interpol-to investigate crimes involving the mail, post offices, postal employees and postal customers.