USPS told its postal police officers to stand down, igniting concerns about mail-in ballot security and sparking another lawsuit against the agency

A USPS mail worker wearing a mask is seen driving between houses while it rains as the state of New Jersey on August 13, 2020. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

In late August, the United States Postal Service issued a directive ordering its postal police officers to end their patrol duties, sparking a lawsuit from the officers' union and concerns about the security of mail-in ballots just weeks before the election.

The order directed officers to "end all mail-protection and other law-enforcement activity away from the confines of postal real estate," the Postal Police Officers Association said in its September complaint against the agency and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

The USPS employs around 455 uniformed officers who conduct patrols meant to safeguard mail collection boxes, delivery vehicles, and buildings against theft, as well as another 1,300 plainclothes detectives who collectively work to ensure the security of the mail, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Postal police union members told The Wall Street Journal last week that they had no evidence to suggest the order has compromised election-mail security. But Jim Bjork, a retired letter carrier and officer as well as a representative for the PPOA, told the paper that if undermining trust in election-mail security wasn't the goal: "then why not wait until after the election to neuter the postal police?"

"If I was going to undermine public trust in the mail, one of the first things I would do is pull postal police off the street," PPOA president Frank Albergo told The Wall Street Journal, adding it was especially concerning that order came so close to the election.

The order came just a day after DeJoy testified under oath to members of Congress that he would pause further organizational changes to the USPS until after the election, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The USPS has faced legal and political scrutiny under the leadership of DeJoy, a close Trump ally who has attempted to make sweeping cost-cutting changes to the agency such as removing more than 700 mail-sorting machines. Some of those changes have been challenged in court, including in lawsuits from seven US states.

The political backlash, mostly from Democratic lawmakers, surged after Trump publicly admitted in August that he intended to block additional funding and election assistance for the USPS, in a year when millions of Americans are expected to turn to mail-in voting due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump has repeatedly railed against mail-in voting, despite assurances from experts, and even DeJoy and Republican senators, that mail-in voting is safe.

Read the original article on Business Insider