Monday, October 25, 2010

West Tennessee post-office shooting highlights dangers for rural postal workers

The shooting of two postal office workers in Henning, Tenn., last week has become a stark reminder of the dangers rural postal workers face. Clerk Paula Robinson and rural carrier associate Judy Spray were shot and killed on Oct. 18 at the Henning office, Michael Lollar of The Commercial Appeal in Memphis reports. A former postal clerk, who has only worked in rural areas, said the Henning tragedy is "the realization of a daily fear in a rural post office," Lollar writes.

"Most of the (employees) are females. They don't even have alarm systems like a home does," the former clerk who asked not to be identified, said. She cited armed robberies, a rape and kidnapping in the past decade on post office properties in the region. Henning, population just under 1,000, had no security cameras, silent alarm, bulletproof glass, panic button or security guard at the post office, Lollar writes. The issue of postal robberies first surfaced in 1921 when Postmaster General William Hays armed postal employees as part of a campaign to "stop a growing number of postal robberies across the country," Lollar writes. Postal workers are no longer allowed to carry weapons on federal property.

Using regional examples, Lollar notes that the Henning tragedy is the latest example of rural postal violence. In 2001, a postmaster in Bells, Tenn., was kidnapped and raped. Three years later, the postmaster in Brunswick, Tenn., was robbed, and in 2006 the postal branch in Lake Cormorant, Miss., was held up by an armed robber. Postal spokesmen and union representatives maintain postal branch robberies are rare, Lollar writes: "I would say the three safest places in a town would be a church, a library and a post office," said John Sharkey, vice president of the sectional center that represents the Henning post office for the American Postal Workers Union. "There's nothing you can get out of a post office. It's like robbing a library." (Read more)

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