By Nicole Bohannon
WASHINGTON – Most people know that the postal service delivers the mail, but few probably know that the post office has its own police force.
Cpl. Humphrey Rutherford is one of those officers. He has worked as a law enforcement officer for the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) in the Washington area since 1996, protecting the flow of mail from criminal misuse and illegal activities.
“The postal police officer is just like any officer, in any other jurisdiction around the country,” Rutherford recently told a group of student journalists. “We work with everybody everywhere at some point in time.”
Crimes range from mail fraud to stealing stamps to stealing the mail. Postal officers also are able to detain or arrest anyone they suspect of a crime until a local police officer arrives at the scene.
Rutherford’s instruction started at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynn County, Ga., where he was taught everything from the law to firearms safety.
“It’s two months of training,” Rutherford said. “You go down there and you’re going to run, you’re going to hike, you’re going to learn the laws of where you’re working at.
“And then you’re going to learn how to make split-second decisions, because when you are a law enforcement officer, there are going to be a lot of times (when) … you just gotta know what you gotta do,” he said.
Intensive training at the FLETC prepared Rutherford for all the possible situations he might encounter as an officer. He focused his abilities toward the instruction and safety of firearms, and moved on to teach new recruits.
As an instructor, he understands the importance of safety when working around weapons of any kind, even to the point of taking care when working with an unloaded model. Safety is first, and it doesn’t hurt that he has memorized his weapons down to the very last component.
“We had to break a weapon down, put it together, identify the parts,” Rutherford said, “and then break it down and put it together blind-folded. You’ve got to know what you’re working with.”
Rutherford said it’s important that postal police officers have an intimate understanding of weapons because criminals sometimes ship parts of guns through the mail.
Rutherford said he also works as a defensive tactics instructor. He teaches officers about the key nerves of the body that can be used to immobilize a suspect. He said that if he ever entered a fight without a gun, he could take down a suspect with his metal baton.
“I had no idea that after I got out [of the academy], from that day forward, we’ve got to train,” Rutherford said. “You’ve got to be at the top of your game in order for the job to be done successfully.”