Statement of Raymond W. Kelly
Before the Senate Judiciary Committee
July 18th, 2001
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to testify.
I came to Federal law enforcement after a 30-year career in the New York City Police Department. I also served in the United States Marine Corps. The one thing both organizations have in common is that they are very hierarchical. While both encourage initiative on the part of the their front line troops, the fact remains that both organizations insist on adherence to a strict chain of command. They also maintain tight spans of control. For example, the span of control in the New York City Police Department begins with a sergeant and five police officers, lieutenants reporting to captains and so on through to the very top ranks of the organization.
I mention this because when I came to Federal law enforcement, first as Under Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement and later as Commissioner of U.S. Customs, I was struck by the relatively loose span of control and the horizontal structure of enforcement agencies.
Where my municipal and Marine Corps experience was very hierarchical, Federal law enforcement tended to be more lateral. For example, when I first arrived at Customs, there were 20 Special Agents in Charge scattered across the United States, 100 resident agent in charge offices and 55 more attaches in 24 foreign countries --- all reporting to one assistant commissioner in Washington. The ratio in that span of control was more than surprising. It was unmanageable; certainly on a day-to-day basis. The result was that the investigative arm of the Customs Service was Balkanized under the various Special Agents in Charge. Routine, centralized management in Washington was often weak and uninformed. To correct the situation, we divided the country into three administrative regions: East, Central and West. The Special Agents in Charge in each region had to report to a new director for each of the regions. Those three directors, in turn, reported to the assistant commissioner. Our attaches abroad were directed to report to a new deputy in the existing office of Foreign Operations.
The result was a much more manageable span of control. The assistant commissioner in Washington could get a quick picture of what was happening nationally and internationally by talking to three people who reported to him, instead of over 40. Similarly, with three deputies, the assistant commissioner could execute and follow up on policy, making certain his orders were not only transmitted, but also complied with. In addition, inspections on a much more frequent basis could be conducted.
With big, widely dispersed organizations, it is not enough for headquarters to send teams to the field to conduct periodic inspections every few years. There should be daily oversight. And a rational span of control allows that to happen.
The balkanization I described was not limited to the Customs Office of Investigation. It affected the Office of Field Operations as well, where Customs personnel were assigned to 301 ports of entry located across the country. For a time, individual port directors tended to set their own policy. That led to “port shopping” by brokers and others who found that the rigor in which Customs regulations were being enforced varied from port to port.
This policy of “power to the ports” was encouraged for a time, as managers tried to apply to the Federal government the devolution of power that was becoming popular in American business.
The problem is Federal law enforcement is NOT a business enterprise. Its employees are responsible for enforcing the law, not making sales quotas. They are armed and have authority to conduct personal searches, make arrests and use deadly force.
That kind of authority demands tight spans of control, close supervision, rigorous chain of command and oversight.
The lack of it caused problems besides port shopping.
Internally, the lack of consistently executed policy led to complaints of unevenness and favoritism in disciplinary procedures and promotions.
Discipline for the same transgression, for example, might be dispensed differently depending on the region of the country or whom an employee knew within the Service. We changed that by we establishing an agency-wide Disciplinary Review Board with rotating membership.
One of the problems Customs experienced with then public was inconsistency in the way in which passengers arriving at various international airports were subjected to searches. Customs has broad authority to detain and search travelers, and did so. What was missing was a coherent policy that was closely supervised and uniformly adhered to. Once that policy was in place and closely supervised the number of searches of law-abiding travelers plummeted, and the number of seizures of narcotics and other contraband increased.
The authority never changed. What changed was how we managed it.
I don’t mean to single out the Customs Service. It happens to be the Federal agency I’m most familiar with. As Under Secretary of the Treasury, I saw similar issues with the other Treasury enforcement bureaus.
I realize that some of these management problems are inherent to the geographical reach of Federal law enforcement agencies.
Where none of the 40,000 police officers in the New York City Police Department is normally more than an hour or so away from headquarters, Federal law enforcement has thousands of agents scattered across multiple time zones and even continents.
That kind of geographic diversity imposes its own management problems.
Management of such far-flung personnel and resources will tend to devolve to on-site middle managers unless strong leadership, supported by a workable management structure, exerts itself in Washington.
To help us know what was happening on a daily basis, we established a 24-hour operations center to which all offices national and around the world were required to report significant incidents.
The incidents would be briefed around the same table each morning at 8:30 a.m. to headquarters executive staff. This way, my executive staff got a good snapshot of what was happening agency-wide and not just to their corner of it.
The head of the agency must be persistent in demanding to know what is happening in the field and in making certain national policy is carried out there.
Otherwise, power will devolve in a vacuum of leadership to the entrenched careerists in the field, where policy may be applied unevenly, if at all.
With the advantage of a 10-year term, however, the FBI director is less prone to be frustrated by those who might try to resist his leadership by “waiting him out” in the hopes of a change in administrations. Congress may want to consider applying terms of office for the heads of other Federal law enforcement agencies.
Finally, I want to comment on one very important issue related to the management of any Federal law enforcement agency; any police agency, for that matter. And thatis integrity, and the internal affairs function needed to protect it. Internal affairs tends to get short shrift in law enforcement. Police critics often call for the function to be handled independently by an outside agency. Law enforcement’s executives often fail to give internal investigative components the attention and resources it needs. I believe that every law enforcement agency needs a robust internal affairs function within its ranks. While the inspector generals and other outside entities can play an oversight role, nothing is more effective in preventing and pursuing corruption within law enforcement than a credible Internal Affairs Unit. It takes a good insider to catch a bad one. And, toward that end, internal affairs needs to be staffed by the best and brightest investigators available. Service in internal affairs ideally should be mandatory, with rotation through internal affairs as part of the promotion track. The head of internal affairs should report directly to the head of the law enforcement agency – not through a deputy – and he or she should report on a daily basis. The internal affairs function will never be popular. That’s why it is important that internal affairs is fully supported from the top, with total access to the head of the agency, staffed with the best of personnel and supported with the best of equipment.
An organization is only as good as the people who are recruited and trained to workfor it. Federal law enforcement, and the FBI in particular, has a reputation for attracting highly skilled and highly motivated individuals. That continues to be true, and it is a major plus for the FBI. The challenge is not who to manage, but how to manage them. How to manage a large, far-flung workforce with a broad and complex law enforcement mission. That’s a heavy lift for anyone. To lighten the load and manage effectively, I would recommend focusing on the four essentials I’ve outlined today: First: Impose a strict managerial hierarchy. Second: Maintain tight span of control. Third: Inspect regularly to make certain policy is being implemented in the field. And Fourth: Insure integrity through a robust internal affairs program within the agency. Thank you, and I’ll be happy to try to answer any of your questions.