The Long Process of Arming Hospital Public Safety Officers

Here’s how Memorial Healthcare ensured its public safety officers properly use their firearms and developed stakeholder support.

The Long Process of Arming Hospital Public Safety Officers

Officers at Memorial Healthcare participate in interactive simulation training.

Just recently, Owosso, Mich.-based Memorial Healthcare armed its public safety officers. Leading the drive to allow officers to carry guns was Jeff Hauk, the hospital’s director of public safety and police authority services.

In this exclusive interview with Campus Safety magazine, Hauk, who is also this year’s winner of the Campus Safety Healthcare Director of the Year award, describes the process his department of public safety went through so that his officers could carry firearms.

“Lack of federal regulations and, in some cases, state regulations can make armed security an easy choice but a risky one too, especially if an organization is not 100 percent committed to developing a comprehensive program that include extensive hiring and vetting procedures and both initial and on-going training for officers.

“At Memorial, our decision process took about 18 months. Facilities with armed security personnel say that weapons in the hospital can save lives and de-escalate dangerous situations, and I would agree. I also believe that putting an individual in a uniform without the tools for them to protect themselves as well as others is wrong. That said, the decision needs to be an educated one, and the proper safeguards, equipment, policies and procedures and thorough training programs need to be in place.

“Conduct your own risk and needs assessment, which includes:

  1. Crimes against persons and property (CAP) index report. For less than $200, this statistical report offers you insight into criminal activity, social economics, and probability of crime in your area. The comprehensive report looks at past, present, and projected crime risks, based on national, state and local crime rates.
  2. Establish a partnership with your local law enforcement agencies so you can receive reports and intelligence on the criminal activity in your area. This information can be of tremendous value, enabling you to trade information and intelligence. In addition, gain knowledge on response times, especially to your facility, staffing levels and patrol operations, especially as it relates to how much time, if any, police spend in the area or even at your hospital.
  3. Establish strong professional peer relationships with other hospitals, as well as active participation in professional organizations such as IAHSS and ASIS. If another hospital has armed security, take the opportunity to find out more about why it chose this route.
  4. Evaluate your organization’s commitment to armed security professionals. A gold standard-type program will require a significant investment. Not only do you have to develop policies and procedures, purchase firearms and all related equipment, you have both initial and on-going training costs*. There is also the question of “Is the hospital willing to make a commitment, in terms of the type of individuals to recruit and hire as officers, pay higher wages, as well as properly training them to be capable of handling a firearm in an extremely volatile environment?”**

*Hauk and his team at Memorial Healthcare designed and gained approval for firearms training curriculum. Basic firearms training and evaluation consists of eight hours of formal online training and 32 hours of a combination of classroom and range training, including a qualification course. Ongoing mandatory training, evaluation and annual qualification is also part of the hospital’s firearms program.

**With regard to the recruiting and hiring of officers, Hauk also created a risk-reduction program that calls for enhanced background screening for officer applicants; annual criminal background check of all officers, officer drug screening, psychological evaluations of all officers every three years and physical agility testing.

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