Outside Whole Foods in Northwest, I noticed a man dressed like a cop. The patch on his back read, "POLICE," and below that, "HOMELAND SECURITY." This seemed ominous—are jihadists lurking inside Whole Foods? Put my paranoid mind at ease.—Name Withheld for…You Know

Just because you're paranoid, Name, doesn't mean they're not out to get you. I can remember a time when the answer to your question would have been so benign you could have lulled little yappy dogs to sleep with it—but nowadays, who knows?

As it happens, my late step-grandfather wore this same uniform—or at least, the late-20th-century version of it—for decades. It's the uniform of the Federal Protective Service, and for most of its 230-year history, its officers have been to U.S. government buildings what Paul Blart is to the mall.

As my now-deceased semi-relative described it, the job consisted largely of trying to look alert while standing in one spot for long periods of time, with periodic breaks to explain to members of the public that, no, this was not where you go to get food stamps. In short, the Federal Protective Service is a cadre of glorified rent-a-cops, about as sinister as that octogenarian security guard at the bank.

Now, of course, days are dragon-ridden, the nightmare rides on sleep, and the FPS is the closest thing to a private army that the executive branch can deploy domestically without provoking a graver constitutional crisis than any to date.

Since the local headquarters of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, aka ICE, is a federal building—and, as you may recall, the most recent local front in the War of Resistance—it was the FPS that was pepper-spraying protesters a few months ago while Mayor Ted Wheeler took various positions.

For what it's worth, of the roughly 14,000 men and women who wear the uniform our reader found so ominous, only about 900 draw U.S. government paychecks; the rest are contract employees.

So: post-office mall cops or the new SS? Who can say? If I ever get around to reading Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, perhaps I'll find that one person can be both things at the same time.