|I am here to pay tribute to Compliance Officers Jean Hillery and Thomas Quadros, who died in the line of duty on June 21st.
I am affected by this tragedy on two levels. First, of course, I am affected on a personal level. I had met both Jean and Tom on a recent trip to Alameda, and I continue to feel the sadness that comes with losing such good and dedicated people. I know that they were both exceptional employees as well as exceptional individuals. They are sorely missed by their families, friends and colleagues.
But I also am affected by this tragedy on another level, because I am the Administrator of an agency of thousands of employees, who are, in many important ways, just like Jean and Tom. Like Jean and Tom, they are public servants, dedicated to the public good. Just like Jean and Tom, they have families who care about them and who need them. And just like Jean and Tom, they deserve to carry out their public service in a safe environment. Not a day goes by when I don't think about my responsibility to do whatever I can to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.
Unfortunately, our front-line employees, because they must enforce the inspection laws, are placed in stressful and too often confrontational roles. Conflict is one thing—violence is quite another. We simply cannot accept violence in any form.
We are reviewing our current policies within FSIS to determine what further steps we can take to prevent workplace violence. We must ask ourselves why it is happening, and what we can do to prevent it from happening again. A new internal task force has been formed and has met to examine the issue. As I left the first day's meeting, I felt reassured by the commitment of the group. The task force has already developed several recommendations that we will implement immediately.
It's clear that we need a culture change. Fortunately, FSIS, and the industry it regulates, know something about culture change. FSIS has accomplished phenomenal results over the past 5 years in its efforts to improve food safety. And culture change in terms of the appropriate roles and responsibilities for food safety has been a major part of the strategy. We've implemented culture change in other ways in FSIS as well—a good example is our strong commitment to workforce diversity.
I am confident that by applying the same commitment to address workplace violence, that we have applied to these other areas, we can achieve our objective within FSIS, and with the industry we regulate. I, along with other leaders of our agency, share that commitment. We will do everything we can to better protect our employees.
The best way I can think of to honor Jean and Tom's memory is to make this commitment to a culture change, with respect to how we handle conflict, and to make it stick. The keys are accountability, safeguards, and follow-up action.
can change our work environment, we
must change it, and we
will change it. That will be the legacy of Jean Hillery and Tom Quadros.