Some members of the university public safety community aren't exactly fans of the Jeanne Clery Act. It is the Clery Act, after all, that requires their departments to provide detailed statistics on the crimes that occur on and around their campuses. This requires lots of paperwork ─ probably not the reason most protection professionals decided to dedicate their lives to campus public safety when they started their careers.
Despite the fact that regulations of any kind ─ including the Clery Act ─ can be a pain in the neck, university security, law enforcement and emergency management personnel should recognize just how instrumental this law has been in improving higher ed campus security throughout the nation. Because of the Clery Act, there is now much greater awareness among college students and their parents of the security and safety issues at U.S. institutions of higher education.
This has resulted in more college executives realizing that they can no longer afford to view public safety staffing, security technology and emergency management as burdensome cost centers that can be cut when budgets are tight. Top university administrators can no longer afford to sweep under the rug inconvenient campus crime stats or be in denial about the fact that they might not have appropriate disaster plans or emergency communications systems in place.
If they don't pay attention to these issues, they run the risk of being fined by the U.S. Department of Education for not being in compliance with the Clery Act. Even more of a threat is the liability exposure they create. Let's also remember the public relations nightmare that could result.
The Clery Act has been so effective at increasing awareness of college security issues that some hospital security experts are considering introducing a similar law. Although healthcare institutions may be ahead of many universities on the security technology side of things, they are a good 20 years behind higher ed when it comes to incident reporting.
For example, a study completed this summer by the International Healthcare Security & Safety Foundation found that about 8.4 healthcare facility prisoner escapes occur each month (see Healthcare Facilities, Police Grapple with Prisoner Escapes). The author of the report recommends a law, much like the Clery Act, be enacted to mandate reporting of these incidents.
Reporting only forensic patient escapes, however, doesn't go far enough. A survey conducted by the Emergency Nurses Association in 2009 revealed that more than half of emergency nurses report experiencing physical violence on the job, including being "spit on," "hit," "pushed or shoved," "scratched," and "kicked." One in four has experienced such violence more than 20 times in the past three years. ER nurses, not to mention other hospital staff and medical professionals working with psychiatric patients and other high-risk individuals, also deserve to have an accurate tally of the assaults they experience.
Additionally, let's not forget the results from the CS 9/11 survey that were released last month. More than 20 percent of hospital respondents indicated their institutions would "respond ineffectively" or "be completely unprepared to respond" to an active shooter incident.
There must be a way that a Clery-type law could be enacted to mandate the accurate reporting of incidents in hospitals while protecting the privacy rights of patients. I look forward to seeing how hospital protection professionals will tackle this challenge. I certainly hope the healthcare industry doesn't have to experience a brutal murder like that of Jeanne Clery or tragedy like Virginia Tech or Columbine before it gets its act together.