TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — If Frank Albergo had it his way, everyone would know who Postal Police Officers (PPOs) are. He’s been the national president of the Postal Police Officers Association since 2020.

The armed guards protect letter carriers and mail on the street, and are supposed to prevent and deter robberies, like the four that occurred within the last month in Hillsborough County. But since 2020, the officers’ numbers have dwindled.

“It’s actually nuts,” Albergo said. “It really is nuts. It’s hard to believe, really. Only in the Postal Service.”

In August 2020, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the branch that oversees the officers, started pulling officers off the street and putting them into post offices and facilities.

“The Postal Service has a police force that it could be using to protect letter carriers, but it just refuses to do it,” Albergo said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Albergo said his members have been hamstrung, despite an increase in postal crimes. The union said its numbers are down too, from more than 2,500 members at its peak, to just 350 now.

“The Inspection Service would rather investigate crime after the fact,” Albergo claimed. “Than prevent it from happening in the first place.”

In a statement to 8 On Your Side, the Postal Inspection Service said, “Questions were raised about whether these patrols conformed to the law and whether they were effective.”

According to the Service, its legal department suggested it only put Postal Police Officers on Postal Service property to avoid legal trouble that might happen in the field. It added that postal inspectors are already doing some of the jobs of officers out in the field as well, including surveillance and enforcement.