Government employees feel the danger of anti-government anger
Anti-government infused threats against the IRS and gun violations on federal property are going up. Many government employees see the over-heated political debate these days as a personal danger.
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“There are over 2 million members of the civil service, and every one of them is entitled to a reasonable degree of personal safety and respect,” says Rep. Jim Moran (D) of Virginia, whose district just across the Potomac River from Washington is home to many federal employees.Skip to next paragraph
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Last week, Moran introduced a resolution “affirming the right of federal employees to have a reasonable degree of security on the job.”
A recent congressional hearing pointed up some of the ongoing problems.
“Several federal courthouses have no security presence after hours, on weekends and holidays,” said Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. “Employees’ only protection is their access card and PIN – it’s a total joke. The bottom line is without a security presence, the offices and their employees are vulnerable to attack.”
IRS employees feel most vulnerable
Not surprisingly, employees of the IRS – the federal tax collection agency – feel most vulnerable, particularly at this time of year.
According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, more than 1,200 threat and assault cases were investigated between 2001 and 2008, resulting in more than 167 indictments and at least 195 convictions.
“In addition, in recent years, several high profile cases in which disgruntled taxpayers have threatened to kill IRS employees or blow up IRS offices, further underscore the real and constant danger that IRS employees must face every day as they carry out their duties,” Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, told the congressional oversight hearing on federal workplace safety.
After the airplane attack in Austin, Texas, security was beefed up at IRS offices around the country.
“This area remains a top concern for the IRS, and we will be taking a hard look at what we can do in both the short- and long-term to ensure the safety of our employees,” Steven Miller, deputy commissioner for services and enforcement told the congressional hearing.
Valuing civil servants
In its interviews with dozens of government employees, the Federal Times found many who say “they would appreciate stronger condemnations of anti-government actions and rhetoric – and a stronger defense of their value to the country.”
"Officials from the White House on down need to step up and make public rebuttal statements," said Philip Hoffman, a program coordinator at the National Marine Fisheries Service. "It does no good to have a goal of having a world-class workforce if you aren't going to defend them. And it's not hard."