Daily Dose: Have You Ever Felt Threatened as a Government Employee?

Like you, I am deeply disturbed by the Rep. Giffords shooting in Arizona. While the shooter clearly suffers from mental instability, the level of animosity in America towards public servants – from executive, legislative and judicial branches to Federal, state and local government – appears to be at an unprecedented high. But is the actual threatening of people’s lives and taking action on it becoming more common?

My friend and colleague Ed O’Keefe at The Washington Post asks the following question:

How often are government officials threatened?

Here’s an excerpt:

It is a federal crime to kill, assault, intimidate or interfere with federal employees performing official duties. As of Dec. 31, the Justice Department had filed such charges against 84 defendants during the fiscal year that began in September, according to department figures. It brought 320 cases against 352 defendants in fiscal 2010, up from 308 cases against 331 defendants in fiscal 2009.

Read the full story here.

Ed also reported the week before the Saturday shooting that U.S. Postal Service workers are being reminded to track for suspicious packages…targeted at them.

So I want to take this to another level:

Have you ever felt physically threatened while on the job?

Have you ever experienced verbal abuse in public settings
when you share that you are a government employee?


“Daily Dose of the Washington Post” is a blog series created by GovLoop in partnership with The Washington Post. If you see great stories in the Post and want to ask a question around it, please send them to [email protected].

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Peter Sperry

Yes and No. I’ve had a gun pulled on me while working as a poll watcher dealt with more than a few angry protestors conducting sit-ins at the office, lost count of the number of hostile constituents who vented their anger with my boss at me, had strangers provide detailed information on my parents sexual habits, served as a surragate speaker to advocacy groups which openly stated they hated me and the boss etc. etc. etc.

But somehow, I’ve never really felt threatened. Anger is something that comes with the territory in politics. Most individuals you deal with are good decent people who just happen to be frustrated. Listen to what they have to say. Treat them with respect and they will calm down. The real danger comes from the random nut cases. No one really knows what motivates them. No one can predict them. Life is too short to live in fear of them. I certainly deal with considerably less overt hostility as a career budget analys than I did as a Congressional staffer but given the right opportunity, I would go back to the Hill. The miserable pay scales are a whole lot more discouraging than any public hostility I experienced.

Patt Franc

For the longest time, I rarely told people WHO I worked for and simply talked about my title or the kinds of activities I worked on that were generic. Seems like working for the federal government was looked on as an occupation where losers did nothing but take long lunches and breaks, provided no service whatsoever, and collected a mega paycheck for their efforts or lack thereof. Then….things started changing. The stability of a good job, federal pride and good benefits attracted new interest. Fed-bashing was down and things were looking up. Until 2009 when politics and politicians put feds in their crosshairs and took aim at us to please some of their constituents. In many front line positions, working for the government means dealing with folks who are already unhappy about something, so no matter what you do or how hard you try to help, its never enough. Most front line feds know this, accept this and do their best day in and day out. Let’s start a THANK A FED program and do what many businesses do….give customers a card, ask them to go online (and possibly win a prize!) to describe their experience and start publicizing the good things we do and the people we really help. And, back to the question….like other commenters, I was never afraid, just disheartened that so many felt qualified to comment negatively on something they knew nothing about!

John Evans

Yes to both questions. The volume and pace of threats has markedly increased in the past two years. IRS tells us not to wear our ID’s outside of the building. I work in a walk-in office and deal with angry persons every day. The majority simply refuse to accept any possibility that the circumstances they now find themselves in are their own doing, instead treating myself and my colleagues to a hate-filled rant. I have had to use the duress alarm, as have others in my POD. Fortunately, our Federal Protective Service officer is a former Marine, and was able to subdue and handcuff the perpetrator. Things seem to be getting worse.

Christopher Whitaker

I get verbally abused at least once a month on average. I’ve recieved two written threats – one to my personal email address, and I’ve had one stalker. I’ve also picked up one verbal threat.

I sit at the front, so if somebody came in shooting I’m pretty much toast.