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Metal detectors due at Baltimore Post Office Can't be 'too safe,' official says


Metal detectors are to be installed in the Baltimore Post Office next week, a move one senior manager said was taken to guard against any violent incident, including potential problems with disgruntled employees.

The decision to install the detectors was made before yesterday's two postal office shootings, one involving a Dearborn, Mich., postal employee who had lost a promotion to a co-worker and the other involving a fired postal worker in Dana Point, Calif.

But 11 separate shooting incidents -- involving 35 fatalities -- by disgruntled postal workers around the nation over the past decade have raised concerns about post office security and employment conditions throughout the Postal Service.

"We have extremely efficient postal police here, but, like most places, you can never be too safe," said Peter Bernard, the Baltimore Post Office's plant manager.

The facility's police force recommended the measure, he said.

"If people came in the front doors and want to go into the offices, prior to the metal detectors coming in next week, just about anybody could have gone up there," he said.

Asked if employee shootings were a factor in the metal detector installation, Mr. Bernard said, "That goes exactly without saying. We put them in to protect those people so once they are at work, they're safe."

There is mixed sentiment locally among postal workers and officials about whether employee shootings could happen here.

Darla Phillips, a Halethorpe Post Office window clerk, said she met with postal workers twice a month in her capacity as an officer of the Baltimore-area local of the American Postal Workers Union. She said employees were under terrific stress, particularly since Postmaster General Marvin Runyon began a reduction in force shortly after taking office last summer.

A significant number of managers are having to take positions at a lower grade but with the same pay, said Roy Betts, a postal service spokesman in Washington.

Last week, 85 positions were terminated in the executive offices in downtown Baltimore, said Henry Putty, president of the Baltimore local of the postal workers' union.

Mr. Bernard agreed that postal employees had "gone through a lot here with the restructuring."

The workload is particularly heavy this week, since bills are traditionally sent out the first week of the month and the mail is heavy with Mother's Day cards.

As to the possibility of an employee shooting in Baltimore, he said, "I guess anything is possible anywhere at any given time." But in his routine meetings with personnel this week, "I didn't sense that."

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