U.S. Postal Inspection Service Case Management of Arrests

Objective

Our objective was to evaluate the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s oversight of case management reporting requirements related to arrests. We also determined whether the Postal Inspection Service reports its results to National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Postal Inspection Service inspectors lead investigations involving postal crimes such as mail fraud and mail theft, execute federal search warrants, and make arrests. They also participate in investigations with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies that have a postal nexus, such as mailing of illegal drugs. The requirements for conducting and documenting their investigations are in the Case Management Reporting Guidelines (the Guidelines) and Case Closing Checklist. Inspectors use the Case Management System (CMS) to document investigations and arrests. In fiscal year (FY) 2020, postal inspectors reported 4,803 arrests and 3,642 convictions related to postal crimes.

We selected a stratified random sample of 190 cases closed in FY 2020 that had associated arrests and reviewed the first arrest for each case to determine whether case documentation in CMS contained support for arrests and met reporting requirements.

Findings

The Postal Inspection Service did not provide consistent oversight of case management reporting requirements related to arrests. We identified opportunities to strengthen enforcement of case documentation requirements, align the Guidelines and CMS, and improve guidance on when the Postal Inspection Service should be considered the lead investigative agency. We also found that the Postal Inspection Service is compliant with National Instant Criminal Background Check System reporting requirements.

CMS did not consistently contain case documentation related to arrests required by the Guidelines, such as fingerprints, photographs, or interviews in the 190 cases we reviewed. Additionally, arrest options provided to inspectors in CMS did not align with the types of arrests in the Guidelines. These documentation deficiencies occurred because team leaders did not properly complete case closing checklists and no management process exists to ensure these checklists are completed. Consequently, the Postal Inspection Service lacks assurance that postal inspectors are properly claiming the type of arrests. As a result of the missing documentation, we estimate total unsupported questioned costs to be $36,285 for workhours associated with arrests in FY 2020.

We also found postal inspectors incorrectly selected the Postal Inspection Service as the lead agency in 23 of 125 (18 percent) cases in CMS that identified the Inspection Service as lead agency. This issue occurred because the Guidelines do not specify how to determine the lead agency for a case or how to document the decision, potentially causing lead agency determinations to improperly contribute to management decisions about personnel and funding.

Recommendations

We recommended management:

  • Create a process to ensure case documentation requirements, including those needed to support the type of arrests claimed, are enforced.
  • Update Case Management Reporting Guidelines to provide criteria for determining the lead agency for a case and how to document that decision.

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