You are here:Home/Research/ Library and Archives/ Institutional Archives/ Historical Records/ Oral History Project/ Chris Franklin

Chris Franklin

Oral History Interview with Chris Franklin, undertaken by James Carder at the Dumbarton Oaks Archives on August 30, 2017. At Dumbarton Oaks, Chris Franklin was Director of Security between 2009 and 2016, when he retired. He continues on contract as Security Consultant.

JC: I’m James Carder. It’s August 30, 2017. I’m in the Dumbarton Oaks Archives office with Chris Franklin. Chris was the Director of Security at Dumbarton Oaks, starting in 2009, and he retired from that position last year in 2016. Chris, thank you very much for agreeing to this interview.

CF: Thank you.

JC: Let me start by asking you how and why you came to Dumbarton Oaks.

CF: Well, in 2009, I was contacted by a company that does business with Dumbarton Oaks and had done business with Dumbarton Oaks. And they were aware that Dumbarton Oaks was interested in moving forward with the security department in a way that needed a new person to join the group. And they encouraged me to put my name in the hat, because they knew me very well and they knew Dumbarton Oaks very well. And I contacted Dumbarton Oaks, and they said that they were about to see people, and then they hired me.

JC: Great. And was Jan Ziolkowski director then?

CF: He was.

JC: You came in under his tenure?

CF: That’s correct.

JC: And is it true – do I remember correctly – that the director of facilities was in charge of security before you got here?

CF: Yes, that was Mike Steen.

JC: So, that was, frankly, a new position, in a sense, split off from the responsibility of the facilities director?

CF: When he hired me, I actually ran security underneath him for a short time, and then the department split off.

JC: I see. At the time you came we had employee security officers?

CF: Yes, approximately twelve or thirteen full-time employees and no contract security.

JC: Right. And their responsibilities were for general property security as well as museum security?

CF: They had a combination of duties, so half their time was spent performing security functions and half their time was spent cleaning buildings and doing facilities functions. So, they did both.

JC: Right. Okay. And when did that change? Did that change under your administration?

CF: That changed under my administration within the first year of my coming to Dumbarton Oaks. I recommended the change because there were also some licensing issues regarding the officers not being licensed as security officers, and they needed to be. And I recommended that we divide the group and have the security officers strictly focus on security as we were building the security department.

JC: Right. And then those security officers were still employed by us?

CF: They stayed employees, and we chose to have – initially, when I first arrived, there were four officers that retired or took packages, as did the person who was running the security. And when I joined, we had an immediate need for six or seven immediate officers, and we didn’t have sufficient time to hire internal candidates and train them, so we outsourced security to the number that was needed, and we made the decision that we would see if the combination worked well or if, ultimately, we needed to go all in-house or all contract.

JC: And what was your opinion of the mix?

CF: The mix actually worked for five to six years and worked quite well. And then, due to a number of circumstances, it quit working well, and we were forced to make a decision to go one way or another. And we went with all contract.

JC: What year was that that you switched over?

CF: That was 2016.

JC: 2016 – just a year ago.

CF: Yes.

JC: Backing up just a little bit, can you tell me, generally, what the responsibilities of the security officers are at Dumbarton Oaks?

CF: Yes. From a mission standpoint, the responsibilities are the protection of all people on our property and all buildings and all assets. So, our internal focus was on making sure that it was a safe and secure campus and all the people there. And in addition to that, we still need to perform functions that were preventative in nature to make sure we weren’t an easy target for people that might be interested in doing something illegal. And we also had a strong responsibility toward customer service in terms of supporting the other directors of the institution – in how to secure the library, how to secure the museum, how to secure the gardens – and how to interact with employees in a way to support what the employees were doing, but still to control things that were need to be used to protect us.

JC: Good. We are, unfortunately, in an era of increased terrorism and other nefarious activities. Did we change our policies in any way to address this difference in societal behavior?

CF: From a policy standpoint, not as much as from a training standpoint. So, we had increased training and increased relationships with how outside agencies could support us and our interaction with the local police and fire department. So, a lot of the training that we implemented was so we could respond, so we could stay in place if there were any incident, and how to do that. And did we need supplies. So, a lot of what was developed had to do with how to respond, if there were an incident, and the training necessary so all the officers understood how to respond and, actually, doing preparation in terms of storing supplies and having interaction developed with the agencies that we would need to interact with.

JC: Good. I also noticed that officers change their posts periodically during the day. They seem to be on for an hour or two hours or so. Could you talk a little bit about how that’s orchestrated and why?

CF: Yes. We have found over the years that an officer that stays at a set position for too long a period of time gets bored, and it’s very hard to maintain a positive attitude when you don’t have enough to do.

JC: Right.

CF: And a number of our posts aren’t active posts – they’re pretty quiet posts. So, in the interest of keeping people active and healthy and in the interest of cross-training – because we also found that if an officer was only used to one area, he didn’t know how the other areas functioned and how to best operate there if someone were sick or if they had to operate another post. So, we got into a formal routine of rotating the posts at set periods of time, specifically so that every officer was fully comfortable with how to work every post, and they also knew how the interaction worked with all the employees and all the departments. And it also kept them more physically active. So, we would have officers who not only would work at a post, but would also patrol the grounds. And it was healthier for them to stay mobile, and it was better for cross-training purposes, and it helped morale as well.

JC: Good. Are there any incidents, either good or bad, that stand out in your mind during the time that you were director of security?

CF: Fortunately, the number of incidents have been low, and we are not in a location in D.C. that subjects us to some of the problems other places have because we are surrounded by a number of prominent D.C. institutions. And we have a lot of police in the area, a lot of F.B.I. in the area, a lot of secret service in the area, which helps us in terms of not being a focal point of some of the crimes that we would be associated with. We also only have a limited amount of time that we are open to the public, which limits us even to public interaction and potential negative interaction. But the kind of institution we are, with a library, with a museum, most of the people visiting come to visit the museum or the gardens, and they aren’t individuals that typically would cause problems. Those all help us in the number of incidents. But we have had quick response from the police, quick response from the fire department, and our officers, through the training that we’ve provided, have responded correctly, which has made me very proud of the way the security officers have supported the employees and visitors. And we’ve been very fortunate not to have had any really serious incidents here.

JC: Good. Were you here when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought Hamid Karzai to the gardens –

CF: I was.

JC: I – to have a private conversation. Were you involved?

CF: Totally.

JC: Can you talk a little bit about that?

CF: Yes. The interaction – I have had interaction with the secret service in previous jobs that I have had anyway. So, we were aware of all the agents, we were aware of where they were assigned. We provided the security officers to assist them with our own radios so we would have been able to communicate if they’d needed any kind of assistance. And our role was to stay close enough and yet far enough away so we didn’t interfere with their ability to walk where they wanted and do what they wanted and discuss business the way they wanted. And we had no incidents whatsoever, and we were very proud that Hillary was able to come here. And I believe that the event went very well, but it was a number of meetings and discussions on how we could best assist her security group, and it went very well.

JC: And that interaction was between the secret service and Dumbarton Oaks security?

CF: That is correct. And I will add a humorous comment to this that the only incident that happened during that interchange is that one of the secret service officers was at the north end of the property in a nice blue suit, and there was bird above in one of the trees, and that caused comment on the radio traffic when that happened!

JC: “Welcome to Dumbarton Oaks!”

CF: Yes, yes!

JC: Any other VIP visits here during your tenure?

CF: We have had VIP visits, and I would rather not – I’m not sure which ones are public and which are private –

JC: Fair enough. But the security department gets involved –

CF: Every time they come, they are accustomed to making pre-security visits, and they always contact the security representative in charge so they can be aware of whose here and what’s going on. And we always accommodate them and work with them to support the event.

JC: Good. So, you retired last year –

CF: Yes.

JC: – but you’ve been back several times on a fairly constant –

CF: I have a continued formal arrangement with Dumbarton Oaks to support security efforts for some time in the future. And that is, one, because of my knowledge of the systems and of the post quarters and also because there has not been stability yet in a replacement as director of security.

JC: Right. As a member of the Dumbarton Oaks community, do you remember, in your tenure, any events not security related that were particularly good or important events that you attended or witnessed?

CF: I would say that none actually stand out in my mind. I have found the institution to be wonderful place to work. I find that it’s easy for us to support the activities and primarily focus on making sure that everyone is safe and secure, which we’ve been able to do. But the institution continues to grow, and we continue to have more events, and that interaction for us is fulfilling. And we like to see the Fellows come in, and we like to see the change over there and the increase in the amount of public coming to Dumbarton Oaks. To us, it makes us have more purpose and really just more enjoyment. So, there have been a lot of events, but none of them has stood out as being negative in mind. It’s all been positive in growth and healthy and a happy place to work.

JC: With the increase in events or people on campus – has that required you to staff up in the security department?

CF: It has. From the beginning of my arrival here, we’ve had to increase. Of course, we’ve also increased the buildings, so when we purchased the 1700 building and we had to put systems in it, one of the progressions we’ve made is we’ve always stayed on top of the electronic piece of security for Dumbarton Oaks. And we have a very state-of-the-art security access control system with a very state-of-the-art badging system and camera system that interacts, and so a lot of our focus is on supporting the officers electronically and protecting the institution electronically as well as having a physical force here.

JC: And that coordination happens in the Operations Building?

CF: It happens in the Operations Building and in coordination with the other directors, who work closely in terms of helping define what their needs are to make sure that we keep up with what they’re doing as they progress and grow. And what we protect is changed as the institution changes their need for protection.

JC: Good. Have I left out anything; is there anything that you would like to put on tape for the record?

CF: I would put on tape for the record that we have a unique institution here, and it is small enough that it allows us to be very collaborative, to know all the employees, and for the departments to work together, which is refreshing as compared to larger institutions that I’ve worked for where you can’t get to know the employees and work as closely with all the individuals. And it has allowed us to add an element of friendship and collaboration that makes a job more fun when you are working in a closer-knit group. And it has been an honor to be here and a great joy in my life, which is one of the reasons why I continue to maintain a relationship, and I would like to do that for a long period of time, because it is a wonderful institution. And I have just been honored to be here.

JC: I completely agree with that. Chris, thank you very much for the interview. It’s always good to see you, and I hope to see you many times in your continuing relationship with Dumbarton Oaks in the future.

CF: Thank you very much, and I look forward to future meetings as well.

JC: Thank you again.