To Serve and Not Be Served

North Carolina University affiliated WakeMed Health and Hospitals of Raleigh, N.C., succeeds in keeping its patients and staff safe and secure by staying true to the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics and blending electronic security systems with a focus on customer service.

In a world where it seems like everyone is looking out for No. 1, Raleigh, N.C.-based WakeMed Health and Hospitals’ Chief of Police Lisa Pryse encourages her officers to do exactly the opposite.

This is no small order considering her force of 82 officers is responsible for the protection of seven campuses. With 854 hospital beds to oversee, it would be easy to fall into the trap of treating patients like numbers or cutting corners when it comes to ethics.

Despite the workload, Pryse, who in addition to her duties as police chief is also active with the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) and the Southeastern Safety and Security Healthcare Council (SESSHCC), expects the officers she manages to be service oriented.

With a focus on selflessness, integrity and training, as well as the savvy implementation of CCTV, infant tracking and panic alarms, Pryse is able to motivate the officers under her command to run a tight yet compassionate ship.

CS: What is your biggest challenge?

Pryse: Maintaining a safe but secure environment in an urban area. The Raleigh campus is in a very high crime area of our city, so around us we have gangs and violence. There is tagging we have to take care of on a weekly basis. Gangs try to inch their way onto campus, and we have to handle that immediately with graffiti removal.

Additionally, our property is next to other human services properties: a mental health facility and a substance abuse rehabilitation facility. At times we have tense situations involving those types of patients.

Thankfully, we’ve been able to offer an open yet secure island in the middle of that. It’s an everyday challenge.

CS: How do you keep your officers motivated?

Pryse: The officers are extremely self-motivated. However, I attempt to motivate them early in the process at their initial employment interview. I share with each applicant my philosophy that ours is an extremely honorable profession. I believe it is indeed an honor to serve the public, specifically WakeMed and those who visit our facilities. I share with them that those individuals who desire to become great in life must come to serve and not be served.

After an officer is sworn in, I present him or her with a framed copy of the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics, which I also provide to each nonsworn officer. I explain that the best we can do is to read this code on a daily basis and remind ourselves of the trust that the public has put in us.

CS: Being that your facility has a drug rehabilitation center and mental health clinic nearby, how do you train your officers to handle patients from those facilities?

Pryse: Initially, all of our officers go through a very intense, 90-day training period. Each officer is required to complete and stay current with the crisis prevention institute’s nonviolent intervention training. It really helps us deal with all sorts of individuals, especially those who may act out or have mental health issues.

CS: Has WakeMed implemented any initiatives lately?

Pryse: Recently, we enhanced our infant/child protection system. We have had an electronic tagging [Hugs®] system in our hospitals for a number of years, which is excellent for abduction prevention. However, as with any electronic system, it is only as good as those individuals who use it.

We experienced a significant number of false alarms, so our campus police and public safety department convened an interdisciplinary group to study the issue. We determined that many of the alarms were due to the infants and children being taken too close to the doors and elevators.

Among other things, we decided to install a particular color of carpet near these areas of concern and call the areas ‘Baby/Child Safety Zones.’ The staff members then educate the parents and other staff members about avoiding those zones when they have infants or children with them.

CS: What other technologies has WakeMed Campus Police and Public Safety deployed that are working well?

Pryse: In addition to a CCTV system that produces signals from the various campuses back to our main system on the Raleigh campus, there are several other systems that are truly lifesavers.

Our large number of panic alarms provide staff in various situations with a fast and effective method of contacting our department to respond immediately. These buttons are both hardwired at a particular location or can be carried in a pocket by individuals in an area.

Direct connect telephones have also enhanced our ability to immediately contact not only our own officers at various campuses that are not covered by our radio system but also other agencies as necessary.

CS: What has been your most uplifting experience as chief?

Pryse: I recently asked an officer to talk about a time he had experienced or observed exceptional customer service. He stated, ‘I guess it was during a time I responded to the morgue.’ Naturally, I was a bit taken aback.

But the officer explained that he had been given the call to assist a mother whose son had just been brought into the morgue. He accompanied the mother and held her as she grieved. She shared that her son had been obese and most of the kids made fun of him, but as he grew into a teenager, he began to work with youth in the church. Recently, the younger kids had begun to look up to her son. She told the officer that she had learned from her son how to take something bad and make something good from it.

Finally, the officer answered the question by telling us that he received such exceptional customer service from this mother during that event that now, every time he responds to a call to release a body from the morgue, he no longer sees just a body. He now sees a life. What a powerful experience that officer shared with us!

For the complete version of this article, please refer to the January/February 2006 issue of Campus Safety Magazine.

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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