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Is It Any Wonder?

Dec 08

A news item from this time last year was recently brought to my attention.  It deals with the police service of a small foreign country “demanding the removal of two RCMP officers who’ve been installed as the commissioner and deputy commissioner of the force”.  I admit that I am unable to find any indication of how this situation was resolved; but my interest was more in the original complaint anyway.

It seems that two members of the RCMP (Colin Farquhar and Brad Sullivan) were seconded in March of 2011 to fill the roles of Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the Royal Turks and Caicos Police Force.  (Turks and Caicos is a British Overseas Territory, with a population of about 39,000, situated in the West Indies).  In November of 2011 the members of the Turks and Caicos police service wrote a “strongly worded seven-page letter to Governor Ric Todd calling for the resignation of Colin Farquhar and Brad Sullivan”, reported the Turks and Caicos Sun.  The letter stated that Commissioner Farquhar was “as lost as he can be and is being bullied … by the deputy”.

More serious complaints were levelled against Deputy Commissioner Sullivan who “has no managerial skills and background and is an arrogant empty-headed [deleted]… and cannot be trusted”.  The letter went on to allege that Deputy Commissioner Sullivan “tramples all over crime scenes and dictates to the officers what to do . . . the wrong way, and he seems to forget that we are a dependent territory of Britain and not a province of Canada, and our procedures are different.”

I find this little story interesting as it provides insight into one of the major contributors to the RCMP’s present state of dysfunction.  Those in charge of the promotion process seem to have the belief that those who have been good policepersons will necessarily be good managers.  It’s as if the concept of “aptitudes” was completely foreign to them.

An aptitude can be thought of as a natural talent, a special ability for doing something, or learning to do something easily and quickly.  Aptitudes have little to do with knowledge, education, experience, or even interests.  They have more to do with heredity; for example some people can paint beautifully but cannot repair a car; others may converse well but have difficulty with computers; while some may be great investigators but poor managers or leaders of people.  These basic differences among people are crucial in providing satisfaction in their work lives.  All occupations whether teaching, medicine, policing, or managing use certain aptitudes.  The job that we enjoy the most or have the most success at is usually the one that takes advantage of our aptitudes.  Did you know that not one Commissioner of the RCMP, in its entire history, has ever been hired (way back when they first joined) because of his/her aptitude for leadership?  He/she was hired because he\she had the aptitudes suited to general duty policing.

A quick glance at the aptitudes that most police services look for in their recruits reveals an absence of the aptitude for leadership.  Police recruiters look for a variety of aptitudes, including: an aptitude for community service; an aptitude for team work; an aptitude for assertion; an aptitude for investigating; an aptitude for managing stress; an aptitude for problem solving; and the willingness to use deadly force.

A perusal of the literature that attempts to identify what it is that makes executives perform at the highest level reveals a different set of desired aptitudes.  Justin Menkes, the author of Executive Intelligence: What All Great Leaders Have provides a representative example.  Beginning his research on the belief that managerial work could be separated into three main areas, he set out to identify the core aptitudes that all great leaders share:

Practical Intelligence Skills – the ability to appropriately define a problem; question underlying assumptions; anticipate unintended consequences; and differentiate primary objectives from secondary concerns.

Social Intelligence Skills – the ability to recognize underlying agendas; understand multiple perspectives; anticipate likely emotional reactions; and identify core issues within a conflict.

Emotional Intelligence Skills – ability to recognize personal biases; pursue constructive criticism; recognize flaws in own ideas and actions; and recognize when to resist objections and stand one’s ground.

As you can see these cognitive skills are vastly different from the aptitudes that most police services are looking for in their recruits.  And unfortunately no amount of expensive executive training will meet with much success in turning a good police person into a good leader.  Now do you see why Mr. Farquhar and Mr. Sullivan upset the Turks and Caicos Police?  Now do you see why Mr. Paulson and his senior executive should be nowhere near the room where the RCMP’s human resource practices are being discussed?  Now do you see the value in an independent public advisory board that would deal with the people/business end of the RCMP?

Dr. Mike Webster, R.Psych.

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