It Couldn’t Happen to Me

May 23, 2017

Mental Conditioning strategies for survival In Blue Line December 2016

INTRODUCTION

The objective of this article is to discuss the application of safety critical mental conditioning practices learned from policing which also have direct application to the risks faced by seafarers  and motorcyclists. It is an unusual combination but these practices have the common factor that they can prevent fatal mistakes or serious injury in high risk environments.

This article will describe three practical mental conditioning methods reinforced in police officer operational safety training and thoroughly documented in The Tactical Edge by Charles Remsburg. Although the methods have been around for decades the deadly results are still with us.

These are:

  1. The Ten Fatal Errors: RCMP fatal accident during the response to an armed robbery
  2. The Awareness Spectrum: The sinking of the BC ferry, the Queen of the North
  3. Myths and False Beliefs: A near fatal motorcycle collision
  4. The 10 Fatal Errors

These tend to vary between police jurisdictions. The original list was published after a spate of police fatalities in the 1970’s which initiated a whole new paradigm in ‘officer safety’ training. In the tragic Newhall, California incident four highway patrol officers were killed in a ‘routine’ traffic stop. One of the surviving felons, when interviewed in prison was asked “Why did you kill them?“; he is reported to have said chillingly “They were so stupid they deserved to die”.

  • Complacency, apathy
  • Getting caught in a bad position
  • Not perceiving danger signals
  • Relaxing too soon
  • False perceptions and assumptions
  • Tombstone Courage (the John Wayne Syndrome)
  • Fatigue and Stress
  • Not enough rest
  • Poor attitude
  • Equipment not maintained

 Policing Example: False perceptions and assumptions in a high speed pursuit.

A fatal accident occurred when police responded to an armed robbery. The officer driving a marked Highway Patrol unit collided with an unmarked Investigation Unit. He tragically assumed that when the unmarked unit in front pulled over to the side of the road it was to allow him to pass. He would have been conditioned in normal traffic situations with the likely assumption that ‘vehicles in front always pull over when police emergency lights/siren are actuated’.  He may also have assumed that other units were on the same radio frequency.

Updated information about the location of the armed robbery had been received from the radio room. The unmarked police Investigation Unit in front was pulling over to execute a 360 turn. The driver assumed the officer driving the Highway Patrol marked unit behind had received the same radio message. Tragically, they were on different radio channels.

2. Managing Situational Awareness

An effective situational awareness and perception management system known as the “Awareness Spectrum” identifies five levels of awareness and perception control originally articulated by Charles Remsburg in his book “The Tactical Edge, Surviving High Risk Patrol”[4] 

The Awareness Spectrum

White Situationally unaware, daydreaming, unfocussed, mind in neutral

 

Yellow Alert, observant but relaxed, scanning, observing, attentive to the situation, focus broad

 

Orange Potential threat, volatility, increased alertness, focus narrowing on threat area

 

Red Imminent high risk danger. life threatening, very narrow focus on source of the threat, hands, knife, gun, vehicle

 

Black Overwhelmed by fight/flight stress (Panic, Paralysis)  visually overwhelmed, loss of focus and inability to make a decision

Maritime Example: The sinking of the ‘Queen of the North’

At 8pm on March 22nd 2006 the BC Ferry ‘Queen of the North’, departed Prince Rupert on its regularly scheduled service to Port Hardy at the northern end of Vancouver Island. The vessel failed to make a 109 degree course correction and ran aground at 15.5 knots on Gil Island, then sank. Two passengers’ bodies were never recovered. Human error was found to be the central cause of the accident.

Two people were on the bridge that night, music was playing in the background and they were chatting. The vessel was on autopilot. The internal report concludes that the 4th Officer (4/O), who had 13 minutes earlier called in a course correction but he had failed to act on it. The 4/O and the QM1 had “lost situational awareness” .

At about 0020, with the vessel now 13 minutes past the planned course-alteration, the 4/O saw trees ahead and moved to the aft steering station. The Vancouver Sun newspaper reported that “Just before the crash, the 4/O screamed at the helmswoman to make a bold course correction–a 109-degree turn–and to switch off the autopilot. The QMI  helmswoman responded that she did not know “where the switch was located.” The autopilot disengages simply with a single switch and would have been operated numerous times by [the helmswoman].” [7]The Canadian Transportation Safety Board (TSB) indicated that human error was the principle cause of the sinking.

It is likely that that both the 4/0 and the QM1 were in the Awareness Spectrum ‘Condition White’ ‘situationally unaware’. They were chatting and  listening to music; the course correction forgotten The helmswoman  saw the trees on Gil Island directly ahead and panicked when subjected to the 4/0 screaming at her. She was most likely  in a ‘Condition Black’ high stress fight/flight response. Tragically she lost her capacity to locate and switch off  the auto pilot.

  1. Myths and False Beliefs: A near fatal motorcycle collision

Personal – Failure to Manage my own MythsMy personal myths at the time were ‘It couldn’t happen to me’, ‘I can handle it’, ‘I have years of training and experience’, ‘I’ll wake up on the ride’.

It was a pitch black night and I had a few drinks with my Ulysses Club group in a campground and stayed till it was fully dark enjoying a beer. Against the advice of knowledgeable others about animals on the road I decided to ride back to my motel in the dark. The road was in excellent shape with wide sweeping corners. What could go wrong ?

Kangaroos are mostly nocturnal. As they tend to graze on more open spaces, I felt quite safe and rode slowly, shifting from Awareness Conditions ‘Orange to Yellow’ on a long downhill. It had rough high bush on either side of the road. I picked up speed. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a kangaroo came out of the bush above me and landed on my windshield.

Survival stress reactions kicked in immediately. It all seemed to happen in slow motion. My visual acuity magnified so much I could, for a second, see the tiny hair roots  on its haunch. I hit the road hard in seconds. Still pumping with survival adrenaline and feeling no pain I  lifted the 240 kg Triumph motorbike up effortlessly and walked it across to the side of the road. The windshield and the head/side lights were gone, the instruments were shattered and the ignition cables were ripped out. It was a mess but I was as high as a kite  with stress chemical alertness and strength  and felt OK. The shakes and pain kicked in shortly after but I was alive.

IT DID HAPPEN TO ME

John Walker

[4]  The Tactical edge : Surviving high-risk patrol by Charles Remsberg ; pub. Northbrook, IL : Calibre Press, 1986.

[7] Cindy E. Harnett, “Probe fingers crew in ferry sinking, the Vancouver Sun, March 27, 2007, p. A4.

[8] Arrive Alive; Hits and Myths of Motorcycing, Australian Road Rider, Vol 9 # 40, pp 108 – 110, 2007


HUMAN FACTOR SAFETY LESSONS FROM POLICING APPLICABLE TO THE MARITIME INDUSTRY

May 25, 2015

HUMAN FACTOR SAFETY LESSONS FROM POLICING APPLICABLE TO THE MARITIME INDUSTRY
ATTRIBUTION: THIS PAPER WAS FIRST PRESENTED AT THE MASTER MARINERS CONFERENCE IN LAUNCESTON APRIL 15 2015

John Walker, BEd, MA, CMC, MNI, Leadr
John Walker began his career as a Wireless Officer with Alfred Holt and Company sailing on both Blue Funnel and Glen Line ships in the 1960’s. He entered the University of Calgary as a mature student graduating with a BEd, then an MA, from the University of Sussex. He is an Associate member of the CMMA, and a Companion member of the Nautical Institute.

He spent 10 years under contract to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police researching, designing and delivering a wide range of human factor operational programs. These included stress and trauma management, hostage negotiation and high level crisis intervention. He also has a unique breadth of behavioural science experience combined with research and learning design across many industries, including maritime.

INTRODUCTION

The main objective of this paper is to articulate the application of safety critical practices learned from policing operational safety which over the past decade have reduced injuries and fatalities significantly. This paper focuses on the application of three practical mental conditioning methods reinforced in police officer operational safety training. These are:

1. The awareness and avoidance of ‘The Ten Fatal Errors’,
2. The cognizance of personal ‘Myths and False Belief Constructs’ underlying operational safety, and
3. One specific situational awareness management methodology called “The Awareness Spectrum”.

Safety critical human factor lessons from policing have a direct application to maritime operations. The paper will describe, within a mental conditioning context, three fatal policing situations followed by an analysis of a serious maritime incident where fatalities occurred or could have occurred. These are:

• The Ten Fatal Errors: The loss of the Herald of Free Enterprise
• Myths and False Belief Constructs: The grounding of HMS Nottingham
• The Awareness Spectrum: The sinking of Queen of the North

Managing stress (fight and flight) arousal and perception distortion through applied mental conditioning techniques during complex vessel operations is crucial. It is also safety critical that watch keepers are aware of potential ‘Fatal Errors’, the consequences of their own personal ‘Myths and False Belief Constructs’ and an ability to apply ‘The Awareness Spectrum’ when appropriate.

1. THE 10 FATAL ERRORS

These tend to vary slightly between different police jurisdictions. The original list was published after a spate of police fatalities in the 1970’s which initiated a whole new paradigm in ‘officer safety’ training.

The fatal errors are identified in the following table:

Table 1: The 10 Fatal Errors
• Complacency, apathy
• Getting caught in a bad position
• Not perceiving danger signals
• Relaxing too soon
• False perceptions and assumptions
• Tombstone Courage (the John Wayne Syndrome)
• Fatigue and Stress
• Not enough rest
• Poor attitude
• Equipment not maintained

1.1 Policing Example: False assumptions and conditioning under stress in a high speed pursuit.

A fatal accident occurred when two police cars responded to an armed robbery. The police officer driving a marked highway patrol unit collided with an unmarked Investigation unit. He tragically assumed that when the unmarked police unit in front pulled over to the side of the road it was to allow him to pass. This would have occurred hundreds of time in normal traffic situations. The dominant ‘Myth’ construct would likely have been ‘vehicles in front always pull over when police emergency lights/siren are actuated’.

Updated information about the location of the armed robbery had been received from the radio room. The unmarked police Investigation unit in front was pulling over to execute a 360 turn. The driver assumed the officer driving the Highway Patrol marked unit behind had received the same radio message. Tragically they were on a different radio channel.

1.2 Maritime Example: False assumptions, not enough rest, poor attitude, relaxing too soon, and complacency as human factors in the capsizing of the Herald of Free Enterprise resulting in 193 deaths.
Most of her crew were on the return leg of the second Dover-Calais round trip during their 24 hour shift, suggesting that fatigue was a human factor in the accident. There were also design factors causing the necessity to flood the bow ballast tanks, lowering the bow by 3 feet. There were no indicators on the bridge to show whether the forward loading car deck doors were open or closed.
It was assumed that before leaving Zeebrugge, the assistant Bosun would close the forward car deck doors as it was his responsibility. He was still asleep when the harbour-stations call sounded and moorings were dropped. The Chief Officer was required to stay on deck to make sure the doors were closed and he assumed that after seeing a crew member in an orange coverall on the car deck, the doors had been closed. Compounding this, the Bosun did not close the doors himself as his attitude was that he didn’t see it as his duty at that time. The Chief Officer then left the deck and returned to the bridge where he was relieved by the Master who also now assumed the doors were closed. The Chief Officer was then directed by the Master to take his dinner break. In an astonishing lack of safety engineering there were no visual or electronic indicators on the bridge to show that the doors were closed. 193 passengers and crew perished in the disaster.[1]

2. MYTHS AND FALSE BELIEF CONSTRUCTS
When surviving police officers were interviewed after partners had been killed or injured, it became clear that belief constructs or ‘personal myths’ were significant contributing human factors.
Table 2: Common police myths
• It’s only routine
• There are two of us
• Nothing ever happens on a Sunday
• They are only kids
• I am armed
• It’s only a traffic violation
• It couldn’t happen here
• I can handle it
• I have back up
• It’s never happened before
• Women don’t fight
• Stress doesn’t affect me

Research into police officer fatalities and serious injuries indicated that they held certain beliefs or ‘Myths’ which reduced their alertness levels or appropriateness of response to an emerging danger. Interviews with injured officers and partners of police killed in the line of duty identified constructs such as “this could never happen here”, ” I can handle this on my own”, “I can handle it”, “I have back up. It is on its way”.
In the previous police example 1.1, the dominant ‘Myth’ expectation combined with the stress/excitement of responding to an armed robbery call would likely have been ‘It’s routine. Vehicles in front always pull over when police emergency lights/siren are seen or heard.’
After many years of patrol experience most police believe that they can categorize people and situations very accurately. Perspectives can become stereotyped, hardened and reinforced in their ‘Myths’ by commonly used language similar to: All ……..are ……. and ……always/never …… This can expose them to significant perception mistakes encoded in their belief system constructs which can have fatal consequences.

2.1 Policing Example: a fatal ‘Myth’ – women don’t rob banks

A police officer was responding to a bank alarm going off. It was 37 above in Los Angeles. He was observed shouting at a woman wearing a full length leather coat who was in close proximity to the bank. When she did not respond to his warnings he ran up to her shouting “please get into cover, there is an armed bank hold-up close by”. He was shot and killed by the woman who had just robbed the bank. She had a sawn off shotgun hidden under her coat. The officer’s likely ‘Myth’ construct was ‘women don’t rob banks’. He did not perceive the unusual heavy leather coat being worn on an extremely hot day as a danger signal. Compounding this, his situational awareness would have been affected by narrowed perception associated with the fight/flight reactions in responding tragically for all the right reasons.[2]

2.2 Maritime Example: The Grounding of HMS Nottingham.

The Royal Navy destroyer HMS Nottingham was severely damaged when grounded on Wolf Rock, east of Lord Howe Island on route to New Zealand on 7 July 2002. A combination of potentially ‘Fatal Errors’ likely included: complacency, apathy, getting caught in a bad position, and not perceiving danger signals. Likely belief constructs could have included “It couldn’t happen to me”, “I can handle it”, “It’s only routine”.

She was stabilised by her crew and towed back to Australia for basic repairs then taken back to the UK on a lift ship. The Nottingham was considered one of the most modern and capable ships in the Royal Navy at the time. The subsequent Inquiry as reported found that:

“It would appear that the Navigating Officer’s quality and standard of work in pilotage planning were also far from adequate. … The quality of the Navigating Officer’s chart preparations and notebook, and his execution of the manoeuvre out of the anchorage belie a casual approach to his duties, and a lack of understanding of risk”. He issued advice to the Officer of the Watch without any reference to the chart or knowledge of the ship’s position or the proximity of dangers. Specifically he inadvertently advised him to alter course directly towards Wolf Rock.[3]

These ‘Myths or False Beliefs’ are constructs that have evolved over time and are unstated thus rarely challenged, setting the scene for fatal errors to occur. Lessons from policing show that the most common fatal errors include: false assumptions, complacency, not perceiving danger signals, relaxing too soon, unmanaged fatigue and stress. I speculate that the Navigating Officer in the grounding of the HMS Nottingham may have had a strong sense of his own competence and the myth that there were no risks to the vessel as observed from the bridge. There is a need for watch keepers to challenge their own ‘Myths and False Beliefs’ before an incident occurs not after.

3. MANAGING SITUATIONAL AWARENESS, THE AWARENESS SPECTRUM

An effective situational awareness and perception management system known as the “Awareness Spectrum” identifies five levels of awareness and perception control originally articulated by Charles Remsburg in his book “The Tactical Edge, Surviving High Risk Patrol”[4]

The table of the Awareness Spectrum is shown on the next page.

Table 3: The Awareness Spectrum

White Situationally unaware, daydreaming, unfocussed, mind in neutral

Yellow Alert, observant but relaxed, scanning, observing, attentive to the situation, focus broad

Orange Potential threat, volatility, increased alertness, focus narrowing on threat area

Red Imminent high risk danger. life threatening, very narrow focus on source of the anger, hands, knife, gun, vehicle

Black Overwhelmed by fight/flight stress (Panic, Paralysis) visually overwhelmed, loss of focus and inability to make a decision

Mental conditioning became a key factor in police officer survival training to counteract extreme fight/flight stress and perception errors leading to loss of control and panic described as ‘Condition Black’. ‘Condition White’ is completely inappropriate for any bridge or engineering watch keeper at any time. As a potential incident develops, such as an approaching vessel apparently steering out of control, watch keeper’s levels of awareness, stress arousal and focus is adjusted appropriately never entering into ‘Condition Black’. Ideally the approaching vessel would be noticed in ‘Condition Yellow’ and as it closed in, the focus would narrow to ‘Condition Orange’. Appropriate avoidance action would be taken. If a collision was imminent, it would be a ‘Condition Red’ situation with actions being taken and orders given for collision avoidance. Bridge communication and vessel control is managed at all times. By managing perception and stress through this process, decisions, preparations and orders are made in a calm and methodical way.

3.1 Policing Example: Lack of Situational Awareness

Condition White to Black: A police officer was writing out overdue parking tickets in a suburban supermarket lot. According to a witness, a clearly distressed and aggressive individual approached the officer and started shouting. He ignored the situation and turned his back to the source of threat and continued to complete the ticket. Possibly in ‘Condition White’, used to abuse, he likely had a myth construct that ‘this is mundane, boring work; nothing ever happens on a Sunday here’.

Suddenly the distressed man pulled out a knife and moved very quickly towards the officer who turned around and panicked (fight/flight stress overload), dropped his ticket book and put his hands in the air. He did nothing to protect himself and was tragically stabbed to death. The witness reported that it all happened in seconds and reported that the officer appeared “blank/stunned” before being killed. Officer safety statistics show that a hostile person with an edged weapon can move 11 feet in a second.[5]

3.2 Maritime Example: The sinking of the Queen of the North

At 8pm on March 22nd 2006 the BC Ferries ‘Queen of the North’, a 37 year old RO/RO ferry of 8806 gross tonnes with a capacity of 700 passengers and 115 cars departed Prince Rupert, British Columbia on its regularly scheduled service to Port Hardy at the northern end of Vancouver Island. The normal crossing of the Inside Passage took 15 – 18 hours. The vessel failed to make a course correction and ran aground at 15.5 knots on Gil Island. Two passengers’ bodies were never recovered. Human error was found to be the central cause of the accident.
Three crew members were in charge of navigation and steering on the night of the sinking. The person at the wheel that night was the Ship’s Quartermaster (QM1), a female deckhand who was a “rating under training”. The two people in charge of navigation were the second (2/O) and fourth officers (4/O) .The internal report concludes that the ship’s black box shows the 4/O failed to alter course, or at the very least, verify such a change in course was made. It also concludes that the two people on the bridge that night, the 4/O and the QM1 lost situational awareness sometime after Sainty Point. The wind at this point was increasing and gusting in squalls to 30 knots with reduced visibility on the starboard bow.
The following observations regarding the human element were made in the Canadian Transportation Safety Board (TSB) indicating that human error was the principle cause of the sinking.
The (2/O) left the bridge but left behind a laptop computer that was playing music in the background. This was heard at Prince Rupert Traffic control when the 4/O communicated in advance a course change. Crucially this course correction was not activated. A personal conversation was talking place between the male 4/O and the female QM1 who was at the helm. The 4/O also turned down the dimmer switch on the ECS Monitor. They were now alone on the bridge and sat in their chairs next to the radar and forward steering station, respectively, and conversed intermittently for the next 12 minutes while music was being played in the background. The squall passed and visibility improved.

At about 0020, with the vessel now 13 minutes past the planned course-alteration point at Sainty Point, the 4/O moved between the bridge’s front window and the radar, and subsequently ordered a course change to 109º, which QM1 queried and he reaffirmed. As QM1 stood to make the change, she looked up and saw trees off the starboard bow. The 4/O also saw trees and moved to the aft steering station. As he did so, he ordered QM1 to switch from autopilot to hand-steering. QM1, however, was unfamiliar with the operation of the switch at the forward steering station and did not know how to comply.[6]

The Vancouver Sun newspaper reported that “Just before the crash, the 4/O screamed at the helmswoman to make a bold course correction–a 109-degree turn–and to switch off the autopilot. But the helmswoman responded that she did not know “where the switch was located.” The BC Ferries’ report questions the validity of this evidence “as the autopilot disengages simply with a single switch and would have been operated numerous times by the [helmswoman].” [7]

It is likely that at the time of the grounding on Gil Island both the 4/0 and the QM1 were in the Awareness Spectrum ‘Condition White’ ‘situationally unaware’. They were chatting, listening to music, the ECS screen was dimmed. The vessel had now made headway 13 minutes past the planned but not activated course-alteration point at Sainty Point as previously communicated to Prince Rupert Control. When QM1 saw the trees on Gil Island directly ahead and was subjected to the 4/0 screaming at her, she went immediately into a ‘Condition Black’ high stress fight/flight response losing her capacity to locate and switch off the auto pilot.

CONCLUSION
It is very clear that lessons from policing training and experience have application in the maritime industry and many other high risk occupations. Drawing from a decade in policing research and education this paper identifies and describes human factor practices that would augment BRM and other human element safety initiatives in maritime training procedures.
In policing, particularly high risk patrol, there are considerable officer safety risks encountered on a daily basis with significant consequences. Many police watches begin with a discussion of the ‘errors’ before they go on shift. There are constant reminders. The maritime industry is much more complex due to its types of vessels, cargoes and voyages. One factor that is critical to ‘Fatal Errors’ and problematic personal ‘Myths and Belief Constructs’ is fatigue and stress, particularly when crewing numbers are reduced to the absolute minimum.
Vessel specific understanding and communication about likely ‘Fatal Errors’ is not complex. Each ship could discuss and post their own list of ten or more. This can be easily augmented by ship wide visual reminders.
Consideration of the belief constructs or ‘Myths’ that individual watch keepers hold is more complex, as they are rarely observable. This crucial aspect needs to be widely communicated and discussed in both training and vessel operation. Watch keepers should be checking in now then asking the question “What are you thinking about right now?” or “Which Condition is appropriate now?” While from my own seagoing experience some of the responses received may be hilarious, the underlying message is being reinforced. Communicating about and application of the ‘Awareness Spectrum’ is not particularly difficult and could be supported by appropriate displays on the bridge and common areas.
Perhaps the critical question should be asked when on watch and particularly in complex vessel movements approaching ports at night is “What Awareness Spectrum are you in right now.


TASER USE REDUCTION

June 23, 2013

News desk Daily Telegraph:

REDUCTION OF TASER USE IN BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA SINCE THE DEATH OF ROBERT DZIEKAŃSKI IN 2007

In the light of the Coroner’s report into the tasering death of Roberto Laudisio Curti, the ABC 7.30 news of the 14 year old by being tasered and other similar news stories you may be interested to know about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police experience following the tasering death of Robert Dziekański at Vancouver international airport (YVR) in October 14, 2007. He was dead within 26 seconds of the police arriving on the scene. No attempt was made to de-escalate the situation through using conflict communication skills before using the Taser. After initially convulsing and falling to the floor Mr. Dziekański was handcuffed and tasered several more times. He “suffered a surge of adrenaline amplified by the effects of the taser and the struggle with the officers that caused a cardiac arrest. … Mr. Dziekanski was neither defiant or resistant upon approach by the officers, and that he did not present a threat when he brandished a stapler in frustration.” Braidwood Report, 2008. (Sound familiar ?)

The incident caused a national outcry and brought the highly regarded RCMP, a world renowned police force and a national icon of Canada, into disrepute attracting critical media coverage for years following. Discrepancies between the official RCMP media explanation and a video taken by a passenger at the scene caused further humiliation and reputational damage and an upsurge in critical media reporting on RCMP operations and culture nationally.

It was an avoidable tragedy and a national embarrassment for the ‘Force’ from which it has not yet fully recovered. A Judicial inquiry report headed by former Judge Thomas Braidwood was published in 2008. Interestingly in a matter relating to his report findings ‘Taser International’ in protection of their products challenged the findings including the finding “that tasers can kill”. This challenge was rejected by a B.C. Supreme Court Justice. ” Source: Ian Bailey, Globe and Mail, Vancouver Last updated Thursday, Aug. 23 2012.

87% reduction in Taser use

In recent news coverage from Canada Taser use by the RCMP and other police organizations in British Columbia has been reduced by 87%. In summary Canadian CTV news reported that “Taser use by police in British Columbia is down 87 per cent since Robert Dziekanski died at Vancouver’s airport” . Statistically Tasers were used “640 times in 2007, compared to 85 deployments last year” and that British Columbia police, including the RCMP ” appear to be relying more heavily on verbal skills and physical tools other than Tasers when dealing with potentially dangerous situations.” Source:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/police-taser-use-in-b-c-down-87-per-cent-since-dziekanski-death-1.988877#ixzz2C8tMrP5P

Are there Lessons for NSW Police to be learned ? It might be worth looking at the level of the hyper vigilance officer survival training being taught in NSW. During my doctoral research with the RCMP in Canada in 2010 there were concerns raised that young police were being preconditioned through officer survival training to be hyper vigilant of the dangers on the job. Just as Mr. Corti was in a drug induced state of “excitable delirium”, a term used to describe the mental state of Robert Dziekanski, it is worth considering that the police in chase were in fact in a hyper vigilant high stress amyglada/hypothalamus triggered excitable stress state themselves.

There is no doubt that the families of Robert Dziekanski and Laudisio Curti
Have experienced the worst of trauma and personal loss in these two separate incidents. Let us, however, not forget that the police attending the two scenes
will also have to carry the weight of such trauma and loss in their own lives forever. The Coroner’s comments that they behaved with an “ungoverned pack mentality” are very hard to live with.

Personal Note:
I was a lecturer/consultant to the RCMP for a decade in the 1980’s and developed ‘Crisis Intervention’ and ‘Hostage Negotiators’ courses for both the RCMP and other British Columbia police organizations. I also modified and delivered similar programs to several law – enforcement organizations in Australia to manage conflict/stress/perception/situational awareness.

At present I am a doctoral scholar doing a PhD at Macquarie Graduate School of Management focusing on an RCMP critical incident which took place in the 1980’s as a lens to examine the relationship between trauma and resilience at both the personal and organisational levels.

John Walker
Former police behavioural consultant
Doctoral scholar
35-28 Phillips Street
Cabarita
NSW 2137
0408 162 811


Taser Deaths by Police in Canada

June 13, 2013

CANADIAN MOUNTIES LEARN FROM TASERING DEATH

Robert Dziekański died at Vancouver airport in October 2007. The incident has many similar features to the death of Laudisio Curti. Although handcuffed he was tasered multiple times. He died within 26 seconds from a “surge of adrenaline amplified by the effects of the taser and the struggle with the officers that caused a cardiac arrest.” Sound familiar ?

Discrepancies between the official RCMP explanation and a phone video taken at the scene caused long lasting humiliation and reputational damage for the Mounties.

Things had to change. In recent news coverage from Canada, Taser use by the Mounties in British Columbia has been reduced by almost 80%. . Tasers were used “640 times in 2007, compared to 85 deployments last year” . One of the key reasons is that British Columbia police, including the RCMP ” appear to be relying more heavily on verbal skills and physical tools other than Tasers when dealing with potentially dangerous situations.”

It’s almost ‘back to the future’ in terms of conflict management training and procedures pre-taser introduction. Are there Lessons for NSW Police to be learned ?

John Walker
Former police behavioural consultant


USING TEAM MANAGEMENT PROFILES TO BUILD HI PERFORMING TEAMS IN A CHARITY

May 25, 2013

Building Teams: A leaders perspective

By John Walker

Austcare , ( now aligned with Action Aid) is a humanitarian aid and development organization established in 1967 in response to the International Year of Refugees, which specializes in providing emergency relief and sustainable development to refugees, displaced people and communities affected by landmines. Since Major General Smith has been CEO, he has led the organization through some major changes. In that time, Austcare has doubled the amount raised annually through fundraising, significantly increased staff numbers, lowered staff turnover and rehabilitated its reputation as an employer in the overseas charity sector. But according to the CEO, Mike Smith there is still much more to be done if Austcare is to further reduce poverty levels and enable beneficiaries to live in dignity.

Challenge

Before former Major General Mike  Smith’s arrival, Austcare had branched from its traditional focus of assisting refugees in emergencies to include longer-term development projects in countries recovering from war, such as landmine removal in Cambodia, Afghanistan and Mozambique, and food security in East Timor and Zambia. Although very supportive of this work, He felt that Austcare should not neglect its core business of emergency relief to refugees on which Austcare’s reputation and expertise had been established. Indeed, he felt that responding effectively to emergencies would demonstrate Austcare’s relevance to the community and provide an entry point for longer-term poverty reduction programs based on building the capacity and sustainability of local communities at the grassroots. However, the slow response of some team members during recent emergencies made him question the viability of his approach. He needed immediate action, while some of his very competent project staff were more comfortable with methodical long-term project planning.

The demographics at Austcare were interesting too. Accustomed to leading a mainly male military workforce, Major General Smith encountered a work team consisting primarily of young, well-educated women committed to Austcare’s ideals and who were prepared to work for salaries thirty percent below those available in the corporate sector. Their passion for Austcare resulted in a level of staff engagement rarely seen in other organizations. But as the saying goes, too many cooks spoil the broth. So, when passionate debates between employees recently slowed the Board’s decision to rebrand, Major General Smith sought outside assistance to help resolve internal tensions and maintain the momentum for change.

Austcare’s significant growth had also affected the team’s performance. The organization structure had changed with the closure of state branches and the opening of three overseas offices. The head office in Sydney had grown from 12 to 30 employees and from 10 to 40 volunteers. But the real expansion had occurred overseas, from just a few people to more than 60 in its overseas projects, plus a totally new program to deploy Protection Officers to UN Agencies in some of the world’s toughest situations like Sudan. Major General Smith could see that some staff were feeling burnt out because of this rapid expansion.

Objective

Aware that Austcare lacked unity on the best way forward, Major General Smith sought help from us at Walker Wilson Associates Pty Ltd. Major General Smith felt that he could work with and trust us to assist senior managers and their teams. We approached the situation pragmatically. Major General Smith needed help understanding the strengths of the management team at Austcare and the team members needed guidance to become high-performing and self-directed teams.

Solution

To create an environment of understanding and improved communication between team members, I started by using the Team Management Systems instruments. The Team Management Profile (TMP) was administered to help Austcare’s senior management team understand each other’s preferred work style. Then I gave them an overview of the High-Energy Teams Model so they could work through their performance issues.

Figure 1. High-Energy Teams Model

I then held a session with the Austcare senior management team to discuss the Profiles. We asked the management team to guess where each other sat on the four work preference measures used in the Team Management Profile. With this perception exercise, the managers were able to gain a better understanding of where others are coming from and that staff members may have very different preferences in work styles.

Amazed at how insightful and accurate the Profiles were, the participants each prepared a chart that indicates ‘The Best Way to Relate to Me’. These were placed above their desks and helped improve relationships between team members. When people have similar Profiles, it is easy to get along. The Team Management Profile shows you the strengths and work preferences of people you may find harder to get along with. I think that is its most powerful use.

According to Major General Smith, the Profile partly explained why emergency response was not his team’s strong suite. Apart from their youth and life-experience, Austcare would need more Thruster- Organizers and Concluder-Producers to deal with emergency crises:

“Because of my military experiences and my Profile split between Thruster-Organizer and Creator-Innovator, I value people who can take action quickly. But not everyone is like me. The work we offered in the past, combined with being a charitable organization, have attracted idealistic people with preferences at the top of the Margerison-McCann Team Management Wheel. To prepare for our renewed focus on emergency work, I realized that we would probably need to recruit people with a Thruster-Organizer preference to supplement our team.th

We’ve also used the Profile to make educated guesses about our stakeholders. Now we are matching our approach to the way we think they prefer to operate. We even try and match them with people from our team who share a similar Profile, although our limited resources place limitations on this approach.

The Team Management Profile has also reinforced the obvious: people perform best when they are in roles that they prefer. Being a charity, we need to find that match between preferences and roles to keep our people. After all, we know the pay alone won’t do it!”

With a strong foundation established using the TMP, I then applied the High-Energy Teams Model to help Austcare address the organizational changes that come with growth, and to think about Austcare’s future in a more strategic way. According to Major General Smith, this was a great opportunity for change to be driven by the management team, rather than being directed by him.

The High-Energy Teams Model addresses eight fundamental areas that all teams need to resolve in order to perform effectively. It focuses on eight strategic questions:

th-1� Who are we?
� Where are we now?
� Where are we going?
� How will we get there?
� What is expected of us?
� What support do we need?
� How effective are we?
� What recognition do we get?

I believe that when systems are in place to provide answers to these questions, teams are better able to generate a high level of internal energy which ripples through the organization. Major General Smith said that:

“The High-Energy Teams Model is helping address gaps in our strategy. It provides a framework for developing better action plans which, to date, had been one of our weak links. Now we are focusing on what is critical to Austcare, such as:-

� redesigning processes so decisions are not exercises in consensus;
� preparing a team values statement to enhance team cohesiveness;
� redesigning communication processes to keep everyone in the loop;
� ensuring adequate recognition for stretched staff; and
� understanding what is expected of our teams.”

Results

Major General Smith is delighted – both because he feels the model will clarify what the team should be doing, and because his managers are taking more responsibility for achieving their goals.

“I know I’m often impatient – as my wife has reminded me for more than 30 years – but Austcare needs to continue to transition into a more dynamic organization if we are to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive market that is now dominated by large international charities.

Our team learned more about ourselves through the Team Management Profile than we ever expected, and this is providing a firm basis to help us move forward.”


Leadership and Accountability: Former Mountie on Integrity in Canadian Politics

May 24, 2013

In Calgary Herald May 2013-05-24

 

OTTAWA — With the deepening of the Senate’s multi-front expense scandal, several senators are speaking about the need for change in the red chamber.… Senator Vern White, who was Ottawa police chief before being appointed to the Senate early last year, said watching events unfold has been “frustrating.”“In policing for 31 years I’ve dealt with people who have done the wrong thing. In the last 11 years I was in a position to be able to hold them to account — personally, in some cases. I’m not in that position today. But I still expect them to be held to account. I do expect transparency, I expect expediency and I expect accountability.“And I guess more than anything else, regardless of what party they belong to … for me, loyalty can never override integrity. And I hope everyone else in the Senate starts to get their head around that. Now, some have that, but I hope everybody starts understanding that integrity’s all we have, that loyalty can’t be more important than integrity.

White, who sits as a Conservative senator, said party loyalty is not the only problem. To some extent, he said, members of the red chamber have a fellow feeling for their colleagues, regardless of party affiliation.Yet he said the time has come for some senators to go.In policing, I’ve fired people and asked for people’s jobs who I worked with, who I liked and I thought were good cops. But at the end of the day what they had done damaged the organization so badly that they couldn’t continue to exist within the organization. And I believe that today as well in the Senate, that some people — what they’ve done is so poor, without integrity, that they can’t continue to exist within the Senate. White said he was not ready to name names, since more information still needs to emerge on each file.I don’t have the (reports) I would have had as chief,” he said.

The other aspect of the story that has frustrated White, he said, is the way the information has been coming out. He said the public deserves better from the government.That communications piece needs to be looked at again as to what the public expects. You can’t give them everything they want — the public sometimes want blood, and sometimes the timing is not at a point where you can give them what they want. But you can be honest with them and forthright with them and I think we have to understand why that’s so important to the public, in particular in this position right now.Because, you know what? I understand exactly why the public is upset at us. You know, somebody said, ‘We do very good work in the Senate.’ I said, ‘The public doesn’t care when they think we’re ripping them off how good a work we’re doing.’ They demand integrity and they don’t feel like they’ve received that and we have to understand it when we communicate with them.White says he learned in managing scandals his policing career how much goodwill can be earned by telling the public everything you can.Sometimes we have to tell the public what we have the day we have it,” he said.More Tory Senators add their voices to call for changeBy Zev Singer, OTTAWA CITIZEN May 21, 2013

 

In Calgary Herald May, 2013


PhD updated presentation to ANZAM 2010

November 10, 2011

SUMMARY TO ANZAM

Thesis title:
Behind Red Serge: Phenomenology at the Sharp Edge ( Trauma, resilience and culture in the Canadian Mounties)

This presentation uses “critical incident” (Angelides 2001) and “hermeneutic phenomenological” (Gadamer 1989, Laverty, 2003) research methodologies to explore the relevance of a critical fatal incident in the development of resilience and self efficacy in professional practitioners. The incident occurred in the early 1980’s involving Royal Canadian Mounted Police members (RCMP) . The particularly horrific incident raised a ‘what’s in them’ question in my mind which I thought about for over 20 years.

Henry Mintzberg makes the argument that MBA education socialises managers into a skill set that is disengaged and disembodied from the everyday practice of management. (Mintzberg, 2005) It does not enable managers to cope effectively with adversity.

He also argues that managers learn best when they are able to combine reflection and experience. (Mintzberg 2005) By examining how RCMP members responded to a “critical incident” in the 1980’s this presentation explores those dimensions of experience which are crucial to building up the skills of professional practice, individual and organizational resilience. It aims to illuminate resilience emerging from adversity in the context of policing. Furthermore, in the spirit of Mintzberg’s theoretical framework, this kind of resilience cannot be learned from a textbook but emerges from the way committed practitioners respond to traumatic experiences. In the detachment at the heart of the collision there was both strong and experienced management combined with high levels of support.

Important research findings from interviews with retired members who were directly involved illuminate the critical role of highly experienced supervisors/managers and support within the detachment for the RCMP members most directly involved. Where combined with high levels of support in response to the traumatic experience resilience in the long term is likely to be increased. Resilience is often described as ‘bouncing back from adversity’ but is reinforced by bouncing back and experiencing personal growth.

The interviews conducted with the RCMP surprised me that they revealed information beyond the 1980’s critical incident itself and concerned the culture or way of being, to put it in existential hermeneutic language, of the RCMP today. Each and every retired member I interviewed were concerned about their RCMP culture and its unique iconic symbolism in the hearts of fellow Canadians. They unanimously communicated that they wanted my thesis to “make a difference” for those still serving.

The thesis will be narrative in form and will draw from the ethnographic work of Ian Lennie, the embodied inquiry philosophies of Les Todres and the methodological input from Douglas Ezzy, Robert Yin, Denzin and Lincoln and others.

John Walker
Doctoral Scholar
Macquarie Graduate School of Management
October 2010