Editor's Note: Keeping Staff Problems In Perspective

By Sherry Harowitz (print edition)

Anyone familiar with history knows the perils of taking too literally—or perhaps at all—Nietzsche’s concept of the Superman, but recent news about problems with U.S. Secret Service agents offers a lesson in the more mundane pitfalls of thinking there is any such thing as an Übermensch.

As Fox News reported in mid June, a 229-page log of Secret Service agent misconduct allegations released by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general included reports of “sexual assault, illegal wiretaps, improper use of weapons and drunken behavior.”

This litany of alleged crimes and misdemeanors is at first shocking but it needs perspective. It covers a period since 2003 and a work force of roughly 7,000 employees. It refers to hotline calls not yet investigated. Some level of misconduct will ultimately be confirmed. What will it prove? I’d suggest, without excusing any behaviors that are ultimately proven, that it shows the extent to which errant behaviors exist in any random work force. What matters is how quickly security catches them.

But weren’t these guys supposed to be special? Maybe, but we all remain human. No one is superhuman. And every work force will have to deal with that. The Navy’s growing problem with commanding officers having to be relieved of duty for misconduct was a topic of a recent Kojo Nnamdi radio program. But as Vice Admiral Peter Daly (retired) pointed out on the program, those firings represent only about 1 percent of all Navy officers. The key is “that there’s accountability...[and that] you take those lessons and apply them to the others and make the fix that you need to make,” he said.

(To continue reading "Keeping Staff Problems In Perspective," from our August 2012 issue, please click here)

photo by Elvert Barnes/flickr


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