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Leading by example: A sit down with our partner at the RCMP

In 1987, Jeff Adam joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) because he wanted to help the vulnerable and catch the bad guys. Thirty-three years later, he’s still striving to do that, now as the Assistant Commissioner in charge of Technical Operations.

One of the groups he’s in charge of is the National Cybercrime Coordination Unit (NC3). There, the bad guys are cyber criminals, trying to scam people of money, personal information, or account access. And with 57 per cent (1) of internet users in Canada reporting an incident of cybercrime in 2018, that’s millions of bad guys to catch and a lot of vulnerable people to help.

In October 2018, NC3 partnered with the Canadian Digital Service (CDS) to start work on a cybercrime and fraud reporting tool. The goal of the partnership was to create a centralized way for victims of cybercrime and fraud to easily report incidents to the police, in order to provide more usable information for those who are working to solve these crimes.

After initial research and testing, the team is launching a pilot, which will collect real reports from a small group of the public each day — a small test to help us work out the kinks before we launch it to a larger national base.

I chatted with Jeff to learn more about the journey from October 2018 to now, and how he’s using his position of leadership to push the boundaries on innovation.

What interested you in partnering with CDS?

I do not want the NC3 — which is about all things modern and agile and public facing — to be done the same way we’ve done things before; which is where we think we’re the experts.

When [my Director General] told me that there was this group of folks [CDS] who would be able to change how we approach service delivery, I was like, “Green light. Go.”

And how has the experience been so far?

I’m surprised I’m as impressed as I am.

When you’re a cop and you’re investigating, you have a set of procedures that you follow. They are tried and true because they go to court. Then the court decides if you did it well enough. We’ve become very ingrained in how we do things because, frankly, if you’re innovative in how you collect evidence, you may get tossed out of court. So we are not prone to take new approaches to things.

[CDS is] using a vastly wider group to respond to a question than we would, or we could. If we asked 10 Mounties, “How would you fill out this cybercrime report?”, you’d get 9 out of 10 of them filling it out exactly the same. But CDS has helped bring the diversity of the Canadian experience into it, which we can’t argue with. And it’s going to make it a better product.

I’m actually looking to have the CDS presentation made to a higher senior executive level, like my peers, then I’d like to take that to the big guns at our senior executive committee. Just to say, “Here’s how things could be done.”

That’s a long way of saying why this has been such a breath of fresh air. It’s not about cutting corners. It’s about taking a different path. So it’s not about CDS, per se, it’s the approach you take.

When it comes to digital service delivery in the RCMP, what does success look like to you?

In the areas where we can, we need to embrace new approaches.

We’re looking at the way CDS has brought a new way of thinking to us. And the new idea of “build test, build test, build test, build test”, instead of “build, test, and wait.”

That agility and that unique approach is being taken up by my other Director Generals at the table, and they are thinking, “I can do that. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to know everything. I would like something that does X. And I don’t have to draw out the requirements for X because I don’t actually know them.”

Is there any advice you have for us at CDS, as we continue to do more of this kind of work with federal departments?

I don’t have a good answer for that. Without the drive from the top saying, “Yes you have the freedom to think outside the box,” I don’t know what advice I could give you there.

In that case, what advice would you give to those at the top who can give that permission?

Look at the policy and ask yourself, is a new way of doing it moral, legal, and ethical? And if the answer is yes, then why is the policy constraining you from doing that?

The iterative development that CDS has brought in isn’t against policy, it’s just not how we’ve done things before. Does that make it wrong? No. Then let’s try it.

Sources: (1) Cybercrime in Canada, Statistics Canada