His People Are as Good as Gold

How Bill Daddio strives to build the nation's best police department.

At the intersection of Gold Vault Road and Bullion Boulevard sits one of the world's most secretive, most secure, and most carefully guarded places: Fort Knox. The depository currently houses more than 147 million ounces of gold. Fort Knox — a classified facility where "no visitors are permitted and no exceptions are made" — has achieved a mythic status among Americans.

Bill Daddio literally holds the keys to Fort Knox. He's also been a key player in Philip Diehl's far-reaching change program at the U.S. Mint. As chief of police of the United States Mint, Daddio's primary challenge is to guard Fort Knox and the nearly $73 billion worth of gold and silver in the Mint's facilities. But he's got a second big challenge as well. As head of the Office of Protection, a new business unit, he is working to create and sell services that will generate extra revenue for the Mint, create more opportunities for his officers, and help transform a world-famous organization into a world-class organization.

It's a challenge that Daddio, a cigar-loving, baseball-cap-wearing, 18-year Mint veteran, is eager to meet. "We've already got a great brand," he says. "What do people say when they want to describe how safe a facility is? 'It's as secure as Fort Knox.' This is Fort Knox!"

Daddio's objective is to reposition his operation from what he calls a "boutique police department" — a small group of officers with one well-defined job — to a "premier police department with a specialty mission." It's a small change in language that has big implications. If potential customers perceive that the Mint police are the world's best at high-level security, then that expertise can be sold at a handsome profit. The organization can help other federal agencies protect valuable assets that have to be moved from one place to another or stored in a secure facility. It can consult with foreign governments on how to build secure facilities for gold and precious metals. "This division had never thought about getting into the security-consulting business full-time," says Daddio. "Now the Mint police are going to export their expertise."

Daddio's plan for strategic change has required organizational shifts. Over the years, for all of Fort Knox's legendary status, few members of the law-enforcement community knew who the Mint police were or what they did. Which meant that the Mint did not get the pick of the recruiting litter. With an average of 60 vacancies per year, and a 20% turnover rate, Daddio has had to do lots of recruiting — but he has had to target retired officers from local departments. The result? A unit that was older, whiter, and more male than the nation whose assets it was protecting.

How did Daddio mint a new group of officers? By generating resources to invest in the future. He and a team of officials at the Mint, working with colleagues on Capitol Hill, sponsored Section 121 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act. Under the law, Daddio gained the freedom to give his officers big pay raises and to increase capital investments significantly. Money alone can't rejuvenate an organization. But delivering a vision of a new kind of operation — and then delivering more money — created an undeniably positive climate. "Everybody started feeling good," Daddio says. "They looked better, they acted better, and they were willing to change. And I became more demanding. I said, 'You just got a 33% raise. I want more out of you.' That made sense to people."

Daddio also worked to increase the reputation of the Mint police in law-enforcement circles. He dispatched recruiters to the country's top criminal-justice programs. He also made use of one of the Mint's high-profile products: a commemorative silver dollar issued in 1997, honoring the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Daddio hit the road to drum up support for the coin — visiting police departments and talking up his operation. He dispatched rank-and-file officers too — a member of the Mint police attended roll calls for every unit of the New York City Police Department. Those visits generated interest in the Mint police. "I now get dozens of applicants from the NYPD for every job opening I have at the West Point Mint," marvels Daddio.

What worked in New York City worked elsewhere. Last year, the Mint police received an unprecedented 800 applications for 60 job openings — and, even more remarkably, nearly 50% of those applicants were women. "We're going to be the best police department there is," Daddio says confidently. "Nothing's going to stop us."

Contact Bill Daddio at the headquarters of the U.S. Mint (202-874-6020).

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