Stacia A. Hylton is director of the U.S. Marshals Service, the law enforcement agency within the Department of Justice responsible for federal judicial security, fugitive apprehension, witness security, asset forfeiture, and prisoner transportation, custody and safety.
Hylton has 30 years of law enforcement experience, including 10 years on the Elite Special Operations Group. She was an instructor at the training academy, teaching firearms, physical fitness and kinesic interrogation interviewing techniques, and an incident commander for assignments such as Ground Zero after 9/11.
(S. Craig Crawford) - U.S. Marshals Service Director Stacia A. Hylton.
How did serving in the Special Operations Group
prepare you for your position?
I always reflect back on the basic selection school. It was grueling. One hundred deputies applied; only sixty were chosen; and only eleven graduated. It showed the intensity of that training. It’s like a military boot camp, focused on tactical training with some of the most advanced equipment available to law enforcement and on strategic operation planning, designed to test your ability to accomplish missions in the most adverse situations. This is the group that we pull in for missions, whether to Afghanistan or when we have significant fugitive hunts.
Once we made it through Special Operations Group Training, we were called on, sometimes at two in the morning. One time it was to respond to Hurricane Hugo to support and protect FEMA. You never know what you’re going into, what the assignment is or where you’re going to be deployed. That’s true for leadership. You’re running a national organizational, responding at all hours. Usually, you’re at a level with high potential impact on operations or administration. You have to be on the cutting edge. You have to be able to work well in stressful situations.
What lessons did you learn from being in crisis mode?
Although we have to react to life-and-death situations, there’s the administrative side of the job—the fact you might be facing a 20-percent funding cut. How do you make sure you can meet your law enforcement responsibilities and achieve those reductions? Making sure you’re strategic is key. Leading your people through the crisis requires steadiness, strength and compassion. You must also connect to people. In government now, we face pay freezes, potential furloughs and reductions of workforce. You have to be with them even when it’s difficult. You’re gaining strength from the workforce and engaging them by being close to them, furthering your ability to lead.
How do you keep people engaged in this critically important mission?
Those that commit to protect and serve have it in their basic DNA to put themselves out there. They’re highly motivated. Any leader has to communicate the goals and objectives effectively to the workforce in a national organization and unite the leadership team by keeping them informed of current challenges, engaging them in solutions and leveraging technology. We’re always looking ahead to achieve results. I’m a strong believer in crafting the vision and the mission statement and making sure there’s a five-year strategic plan that drives results. Most people write a strategic plan and put it on the shelf. I’m all about, “Nope, we’re going to link it to a business plan and put it in people’s performance work plans. Then we’ll have a metric to measure.” We can’t survive on the fact that we arrest 122,000 fugitives. We need to show our performance metrics. You have to think like private industry today.