A residential security detail is often thought of and described as boring, uneventful, and unnecessary by agents that feel they are “stuck” working in a static security position. However, residential security is a crucial process that bears the same importance as escorting a client to exotic locations and high-profile events.
The terms used above were some of the exact phrases used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers assigned to the property of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien before the night of November 5th, 1995. What started as a quiet Sunday evening turned to chaos at 2:33am as an assassination attempt was made on the Prime Minister and his wife Aline.
Andre Dallaire, a 34-year-old male breached the fence of the PM’s residence, which set off an alarm, and proceeded to move toward the house unobserved by RCMP officers on duty. Security camera footage later revealed that Andre had wandered around the property for 20 minutes, waved at the security cameras and threw a rock through a window to access the residence. He made his way toward the master bedroom with a knife where he was confronted by Aline before she retreated into the room locking the door behind her and informing her husband of the intruder. Prime Minister Chrétien dismissed her warnings as “a bad dream” but she immediately called the RCMP officers stationed in the gate house by the end of the driveway. After her phone call, seven minutes passed before the RCMP officers arrived at the bedroom door to arrest Andre and take positive control the property.
Opportunities for Improvement
When a mission fails, leaders have an obligation to find out what happened, who was involved, where it happened, when it happened, how it happened, and why it happened. Once this information is consolidated, leaders must take action to mitigate future risk and increase performance levels for future tasks.
- The officers were not positioned to provide additional layers of protection around the residence
- The officers were consolidated into one corner of the property
- There was no investigation performed for the tripped alarm
- The “patrolling officer” was not notified of the tripped alarm
- The cameras were not being monitored by any of the officers at the RCMP hut
- The “patrolling officer” did not observe the intruder while on patrol although he was visible and obvious to the cameras
- The officers misplaced the key to the residence
- The “patrolling officers” were not issued additional keys to access more than one door at a time
- The officers secured the perimeter before moving inside to assist the PM and his wife
- The officers provided no instruction to the PM or his wife over the phone
- There was a 7-minute response time for the officers to move from the RCMP hut to the bedroom door
- Several officers spoke negatively to the press about the residential security assignment
It is generally not extremely difficult to consolidate information for the first 5 parts of this assessment model. However, it is generally not easy to understand why an incident occurred or where the poor performance began. Each one of the bullet points above represents an issue that would likely have been prevented by proactive leadership. Great leaders build quality systems for their teams to function within. Let dive in a little deeper to review the underlying factors that have been found to habitually contribute to team performance across most organizations.
Human capital is the single most important piece of exemplary team performance. Simply stated, if you hire the correct people, fewer issues will exist, and many problems will be solved at lower levels in the organization. This is important if the organization is attempting to provide services on a larger scale because leaders cannot feasibly make every decision for their team members as the company grows. New hires shouldn’t only have relevant experience for the position. They should also be the right “fit” for the company culture. This issue of the right “fit” is where most organizations miss the hiring objective. There are many talented people that would be better suited to work for your competitor because they will clash with your organizations values, policies, objectives, and trajectory. Also, relevant soft skills should be non-negotiable for all people occupying leadership positions.
It is important to hire people that meet a baseline of knowledge, but it is also important to conduct internal training for team members. Many companies are reliant upon the training that employees received in other companies/segments within the industry. It is also important to understand that similar training is not the same as relevant training. One example we can pull from this incident is the RCMP’s response to Madam Chrétien’s call for help. In most cases, police personnel are trained to secure a perimeter, wait for backup then enter a structure or pursue an assailant. That training is relevant for most police operations however, this trained response almost cost the Prime Minister and his wife their lives. It is important to remember that under stress people revert to their training and will usually do what they have done thousands of times before. This is why consistent and relevant training is needed for every specialization within the organization.
Standard operating procedures are important for establishing organizational norms that result in productivity. Every high performing organization has SOP’s/polices in place to not only set standards for incidents that may commonly occur but also to guide team members in the right direction if they must make a decision on something that is not written in the policy. The record of this incident does not reveal the policies of the RCMP however, we can deduce two things from the outcome. Either the policies were not followed by the officer, or the policies were not relevant to the task, threat, and environment. It is impossible to hold people to a standard that does not exist or has not been communicated. Effective policies also allow organizations to enact the next part of this model which is accountability.
Accountability is not difficult, but it is also not a popular subject amongst many managers. If your SOP’s and policies are guiding the organization, accountability is simply enforcing those SOP’s and policies. If you hire or promote the wrong leaders this task will not be accomplished for two reasons. #1 Improper hires may not be willing to bear the unpopularity that comes with enforcing policies with team members. #2 Improper hires may lack the awareness to understand the difference between defiance, negligence, and ignorance in their subordinates. Hiring leaders with these necessary soft skills will result in employee retention and workplace satisfaction. In this case the officers spoke negatively about the detail calling it boring and uneventful. Explaining and highlighting the value that team members bring to their jobs and the necessity of their performance is a part of creating an atmosphere of accountability.
Many people that work in the security and law enforcement industries do not think of customer service as vital to their job function. In this case the only contact the officers had with the client was the call for help made by Madam Chrétien. No questions were asked, and no instructions were given to the PM’s wife by the officer that picked up the phone. Customer service is about anticipating the needs of your client and your team. Asking relevant questions and providing updates to the client and the team is vital to mission success. Prime Minister Chrétien was so angry with the RCMP that the assigned officers and their supervisors were suspended and/or reassigned. He also suggested in a later statement that it was his belief that the guards were caught sleeping by the assailant. Remember that the client’s perspective may not always be accurate, but it is often the only one that matters.
David Hobson, MBA is a project manager for LaSorsa and Associates, and former US Army Airborne Infantryman.
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Farnsworth, C. H. (1995, November 7). Intruder Is Charged With Attempted Murder of Canada’s Premier. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1995/11/07/world/intruder-is-charged-with-attempted-murder-of-canada-s-premier.html
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