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No Justice for Charles McClean, Killed by a Postal Service Driver

Postal Service victim Charles McClean, kneeling on the right, with his brother Arkim (also kneeling), Gregory (top left) and Reggie (center). A nephew is on the top right. Photo: McClean family.

You would think a dead guy would elicit at least a little official attention.

One month after a United States Postal Service driver ran down and killed Charles McClean on MacDougal Street in Brooklyn, city and federal officials remain mute and continue to deflect attention away from both the death and how rogue USPS drivers can be reined in.

McClean was killed on May 3 near his home. Since then, we have learned nothing:

    • The NYPD has not made an arrest in the case though the identity of the driver is known to them.
    • The USPS would not tell Streetsblog if the driver has been disciplined for the crash he or she caused by rolling through a stop sign, cops said.
    • The agency would not tell Streetsblog how many drivers have ever been disciplined for any crashes — or even if a disciplinary process exists. (Update below!)
    • The Postal Service even declined to answer questions about its overall fleet's driving records.
    • And the Postal Service declined Streetsblog's Freedom of Information Law request for an unredacted version of the lone inspector general study of driving protocols in two-dozen USPS regions. The document had been redacted, so the public could not tell which region had the worst driving records — though managers at every region failed to meet basic USPS standards for inspecting their drivers' records.
Gregory McClean at the intersection in Brooklyn where his brother, Charles, was killed by a postal service driver. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Gregory McClean at the intersection in Brooklyn where his brother, Charles, was killed by a postal service driver. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Gregory McClean at the intersection in Brooklyn where his brother, Charles, was killed by a postal service driver. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

The death of McClean brought the issue of Postal Service driving records back into the (Streetsblog) headlines because USPS employees remain a constant threat. Their vehicles do not carry license plates, making it difficult for police officers to write summonses and rendering it impossible for public officials to even know how many postal service vehicles have been caught on camera running red lights or speeding in school zones.

Cops can write tickets to USPS vehicles by finding the truck's vehicle identification number, but the Postal Service does not pay those tickets because of their federal affiliation. As such, NYPD officers typically don't bother to write them up.

Streetsblog asked NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill about that this week at an unrelated press conference on crime stats. The exchange is telling for how little concern O'Neill voices about getting to the truth about the Postal Service's army of unaccountable assailants:

Streetsblog: A question for the commissioner for vehicular crime. A couple of blocks away last month, a man was run over and killed by United States Postal Service vehicle. Those kinds of trucks do not have license plates, as you know, unlike UPS trucks or FedEx trucks, and therefore the NYPD knows how many summonses and red light camera tickets have been issued against those kinds of vehicles. But we don't know that [information] about that the United States Postal Service, so I'm wondering how the NYPD tracks how dangerous the United States Postal Service drivers are?

O’Neill first deferred to NYPD Transportation Bureau Chief Thomas Chan, who suggested there's no problem: "My recollection involving postal vehicles, [the McClean case] is probably one of the few cases that I've heard involving them. We don't have a large number of postal vehicles being involved in [serious collision] cases.

The answer was so hurried and data-free that Streetsblog followed up:

Streetsblog: That may true for [serious collisions]. But my point was just about violations. They can be tracked by your VIN numbers, but they are not, as you know, officers write tickets based on license plates and obviously camera enforcement license plate as well. We do not know how dangerous these drivers are.

That's when O’Neill quashed the discussion by saying that summonses to postal service trucks is "something we have to take a look at."

So Streetsblog asked the NYPD for more information about USPS crashes, but a spokesman for the agency said we had to submit a FOIL request, which we did.

In the meantime, federal officials also are not at all curious about the driving records of the USPS employees who drive more than 100,000 vehicles all over the country every day.

The Postal Service is overseen by the House Oversight Committee, which has never held hearings on postal service drivers. An agency spokeswoman declined to comment for this story, despite repeated and varied requests for basic information.

The silence is troubling because without oversight or NYPD summonsing, it is impossible to regulate the Postal Service, whose trucks fill our bike lanes, block our hydrants, injure hundreds of people nationwide, and, lest we all forget, killed Charles McClean on May 3.

After initial publication of this story, Postal Service spokeswoman Maureen Marion wrote to Streetsblog:

Because the identity of the employee driver may be known or discovered, I have to stick to provisions found under the Privacy Act. We do not disclose disciplinary information pertaining to any specific postal employee.  Further, we are still in the process of a full investigation into this matter which will dictate what next steps are to take place. There is no date certain for the conclusion of this investigation per my inquiry. As always, an ongoing investigation will go without further comment.

Streetsblog asked a follow-up — Who does the “investigation” you are mentioning? That’s a key question — and got this response:

In a serious accident investigation, we will create a panel of person/s related to the issue (such as someone from the post office or processing center of the incident), person/s from unrelated functional areas (such as another postmaster or a manager from a different location), safety personnel and others as appropriate to the nature of the accident, such as medical personnel and labor representatives. Local panelists may be joined by area or HQ level panelists as well.

Their work is robust – it includes a review of pertinent findings to the actual accident (such as but not limited to photographs, police reports, witness statements, accident reconstruction and more) with a goal to discover root causes, reasons for deficiencies (what was done or failed to be done), identification of unsafe acts, assessment of training and management response to the incident as well as other items that may factor in as causal factors. Their assignments will include identifying corrective actions and other activities that can prevent recurrences of such accidents. These may activities may be locally responsive or a national action, based on the findings.

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