Posted: 4:41 am ET
Updated: 7:52 pm PST (see comments)
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Last week, we blogged about what happened at an Security Overseas Seminar and a couple of online comments at InHerSight.com (see A Joke That Wasn’t, and a State Department Dialogue That Is Long Overdue. Previously, we also posted about a controversial case State Dept Security Officer Alleged Sexual Misconduct: Spans 10 Years, 7 Posts.
We asked the State Department about specific training for agents and bureau personnel concerning sexual harassment. We were told the following by a State Department official on background on July 29. We held off posting it for a follow-up post. We are posting it here now since it was cited by a DSS internal message last Friday.
The Department has a zero tolerance policy for any behavior that diminishes inclusiveness in the workplace. Working to ensure the safety and security of our personnel overseas, including from sexual assault, is one of the Department’s top priorities.
Sexual assault and sexual harassment are serious issues that affect both men and women in the U.S. and abroad. Diplomatic Security is committed to preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault, and condemns any comment that trivializes these activities or their impact on victims.
Diplomatic Security personnel are made aware of their responsibilities as law enforcement officers and federal employees from the beginning of their employment with the State Department. Agents receive recurring training on equal opportunity, prohibiting discriminatory practices, harassment in all its forms, and promotion of diversity and inclusiveness throughout their career.
During both the Basic Special Agent Course, Basic Regional Security Officer (RSO) and RSO In-Service courses, individuals from the DS Victim’s Resource Advocacy Program provide classes on responding to sexual assault.
On August 18, we posted an unsolicited item from our mailbox: Inbox: Female Diplomatic Security Agent Pens a Note on Sexual Harassment and Career Suicide.
Last Friday, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Bill Miller sent a message on sexual harassment to bureau employees. The message reproduced below in its entirety was disseminated internally to DS personnel late Friday afternoon:
Diplomatic Security takes sexual harassment extremely seriously – not only as an issue in the State Department, but also especially within our Bureau.
In our response to questions from Diplopundit on this issue July 27, we noted that we find unacceptable any behavior that threatens people’s well-being in the workplace, or in any way diminishes someone’s professional capacity.
Sexual harassment is an attack on the values this organization seeks to protect every day. It compromises our charge to protect the workplace rights and ensure a safe environment for all Department employees.
As a law enforcement organization, we must hold ourselves to the highest standards of ethical conduct. As the leader of this organization, I hold every employee accountable to that standard and will not accept any less of them.
Sexual harassment and sexual assault are serious issues that affect both men and women. We condemn any comment that seeks to trivialize these activities or their impact on victims.
Diplomatic Security personnel are made aware of their responsibilities as law enforcement officers and federal employees from the beginning of their employment with the Department. DS employees receive recurring training on equal employment opportunity guidelines, prohibiting discriminatory practices, harassment in all its forms, and promotion of diversity and inclusiveness throughout their career.
During the Basic Special Agent Course, Basic Regional Security Officer (RSO) and RSO advanced courses, individuals from the DS Victim’s Resource Advocacy Program provide classes on responding to sexual assault.
I am disappointed and disturbed to hear that anyone in our organization would be concerned about being stigmatized for coming forward to report sexual harassment or sexual assault. It is unacceptable that we have employees of any gender who may not feel comfortable reporting such activities.
Every organization can do better, and we will continue our efforts to make sure sexual harassment is addressed in any and all forms.
DS personnel need to rely on each other, and have trust in each other, to succeed in our mission.
We are pleased to see PDAS Miller’s message to the troops. In a good number of cases, bureaus do not even bother to respond. That said, there’s one thing missing here that we have to point out. The internal message says that “Diplomatic Security takes sexual harassment extremely seriously” and that PDAS Miller is “disappointed and disturbed” that anyone in the organization “would be concerned about being stigmatized for coming forward to report sexual harassment or sexual assault.” And that “It is unacceptable that we have employees of any gender who may not feel comfortable reporting such activities.” But — that extreme seriousness is negated by the absence of solid actions that could help abate the stigma of reporting such conducts or help mitigate adverse career consequences.
If female agents/employees are not reporting harassment because they’re afraid that doing so would be career suicide, what should be done about it? Telling folks that “it is unacceptable” is not the answer.
Every organization can do better. We agree. We’d like to hear how before this becomes Palmerized.