Northwell Health will now have armed guards or armed police officers patrolling each of their facilities in and around New York City.
This is an ongoing trend in the United States as more than half of the hospitals in a recent survey have decided to go with armed security, armed police, or a combination of the two.
As anyone who is responsible for the safety and security of the people that enter a healthcare facility can tell you, this is not an easy decision.
A 2012 report, which focused on acute-care facilities, revealed that from 2000 to 2012 there were 154 hospital shootings; more than half (53%) occurred at facilities that had between 99 and 400 beds, and another 34% of shootings occurred at facilities with 400 beds or more.
These figures are relevant to Northwell’s decision as many of their facilities in and around New York City fit into one of these two categories.
Similarly, most of the acute-care facilities managed by New York City Heath + Hospitals also fit into one of these two categories.
The New York City Health + Hospitals System has received media inquiries as to their intention to arm (or not) their security team, 90 % of which are New York State Certified Peace Officers.
The president of the peace officer’s union has publicly stated that it is time to arm the ‘hospital police,’ but is it really time?
The 2012 study reported only 15 hospital police shootings occurred in the northeast, so while many New York City hospitals may fit the criteria of risk for facility size, their location is a deterrent, at least statistically.
The 2012 study also reported that a number of emergency room shootings occurred because a firearm was taken from a guard or police officer, which is another reason for caution.
According to the FBI Partnership Fact Sheet for Mass-Casualty Events, such incidents are increasing in number and severity, 2017 saw 30 incidents with over 700 dead; three incidents occurred at healthcare facilities including one at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital where one person was killed and six more were wounded.
(A New York hospital left one victim dead in July of 2017. Five of the six other people injured were hospital staff. The shooter died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Courtesy of CBS Evening News and YouTube. Posted on Jul 1, 2017.)
Consider, for the previous seventeen years that a total of seven mass casualty events occurred at healthcare facilities that is one every 29 months, and in 2017 there was one on average every 4 months.
It should be noted that the 2012 report discussed all hospital-related shootings while the FBI Fact Sheet discussed only mass-casualty events.
The 2012 report revealed no pattern of behavior where any specific security change would remedy the risk of a hospital shooting; presumably this would include arming the security force.
For areas of healthcare facilities that are dominant for workplace violence incidents, such as behavioral health treatment areas, firearms are rightly prohibited even by duly certified law enforcement officers.
NYC Hospital Police often interact with patients being treated for mental illness, sometimes on a behavioral health unit making the carrying of firearms impractical and unsafe.
There may be a middle-ground here where the presence of some armed officers may be warranted, but further research and discussion should be undertaken before any decision of this magnitude, or with this much at stake, is made.
2018 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program
Commissioner Joseph Sweeny, and Deputy Commissioner Thomas Egan, of the New York City Hospital Police were Recognized in the 2017 ‘ASTORS’ Awards for Excellence in Emergency Response Training for Security Hospital Teams.
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Commissioner Joseph Sweeney, NYC HHC
- New York Hospital Police
- Bellevue Hospital
Excellence in Emergency Response Training
Deputy Commissioner Thomas Egan, NYC HHC
- New York Hospital Police
- Bellevue Hospital
Excellence in Emergency Response Training
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First Armed Security Guards Stationed at NYC Hospitals (Multi-Video)
(Courtesy of ABC7NewYork)
By Susan Edelman, The NY Post
A Queens hospital just became the first in the city to get armed guards — part of a sweeping move by the behemoth Northwell Health system to staff all of its sites with current and former cops wielding guns.
Last year’s fatal shooting of a doctor at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center put the program on the fast track, said former NYPD Detective Scott Strauss, Northwell’s assistant VP of corporate security.
“Why not do it now? Why wait until tragedy strikes?’’ Strauss told The Post.
Northwell — which used to be called the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System — has 23 hospitals, including six in the city.
It put its first armed security force at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset on March 6, then added guards with guns at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, Queens, on July 2, company officials said.
The armed guards are all current or former cops and carry the same 9 mm handguns, holsters and bullets as NYPD officers, he said.
(Northwell Health system plans to place armed security guards in all of their hospitals, a move prompted by last year’s deadly shooting at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center. CBS2’s Maurice DuBois reports. Courtesy of CBS New York and YouTube. Posted on Jul 10, 2018.)
Northwell also recently formed a “partnership” with the NYPD to hire regular department cops by the hour at some sites.
It is already using the cops at Lenox Health Greenwich Village on weekends.
A former city paramedic hailed the move.
“I have seen a lot of s–t go down, especially in New York City, where angry families, gang members, so-called relatives have shown up in the ER and want to fight,’’ he said.
At Lenox, Strauss said, “Having a police officer has prevented the escalation of small incidents just by [their] mere presence.”
Gang violence also played into Northwell’s decision.
At Southside Hospital in Bayshore, LI, “One of the gang members had been stabbed or shot, and the victim’s brother followed the ambulance to the hospital,’’ recalled Northwell rep Terence Lynam.
“He got upset that they wouldn’t let him into the ER, so he went outside and fired bullets into the air.’’
Strauss said another incident involved a stabbing victim at Phelps Hospital in Sleepy Hollow in Westchester County.
“A friend came in to give support,” and officers learned she had an active warrant, Strauss said. While making an arrest, they found a handgun on her.
Strauss said staffers and patients are overwhelmingly in favor of the armed guards and that Northwell plans to put them in all of its hospitals in the coming months.
But other local hospitals are reluctant to jump on the bandwagon.
New York City Health and Hospitals, formerly known as HHC, which runs the city’s facilities, has been against arming its guards — which it considers “friendly greeters’’ and “client navigators,’’ a security-union rep said.
Its guards only carry batons.
Union Boss Wants Hospital Security to Carry Guns
By Susan Edelman and Kate Sheehy, The NY Post
The officers who guard the city’s 11 public hospitals should be packing heat, their union president says.
With only batons and handcuffs, the 650-member NYC Health + Hospital police routinely make busts for assaults, drugs and other crimes.
They also transport suspects to NYPD precincts and courts in their own marked cars.
“No one should be transporting prisoners in New York City without firearms — no one — for the safety of themselves or the public,” Gregory Floyd, president of Teamsters Local 237, told The Post.
As mass shooting incidents mount nationwide, rank-and-file members say they’re ill-equipped to respond.
Last year, a disgruntled doctor killed a colleague and wounded six others at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center.
“If you want us to protect your loved ones — the staff and patients — then we need the right tools to do the job,” a veteran Queens officer said.
The cry for arms at taxpayer-funded hospitals comes after The Post revealed last week that mammoth network Northwell Health, with six city hospitals, has started arming its security force, starting at Long Island Jewish in Queens.
Those carrying 9mm handguns will be retired or moonlighting cops.
The city’s unarmed “hospital police” are uniformed peace officers who handle 1,500 to 1,700 violent incidents each year, said spokesman Bob de Luna.
They make “an estimated 300 arrests” a year, mostly for disorderly conduct and harassment, plus trespassing, criminal mischief, theft, and assault.
“We make felony arrests. We take weapons, guns and drugs off people. We’ve had to call NYPD to back us up with gang members trying to get into the ER to see their ‘homies,’” an officer said.
Citywide, hospital staff get mandated training to “run, hide, fight” in an active-shooter scenario.
Workers are told to barricade or lock themselves in rooms to protect patients confined to beds.
“If the hospital believes there’s a chance it may happen, that’s more than enough reason for us to carry” firearms, another officer said.
Twenty years ago, Local 237 hired a consultant to make the case for arming hospital police, saying they perform the same duties as the NYPD in a place “where the potential for violence is exceptionally high.”
Members recalled a horrific shooting in 2004 when a deranged husband barged into Elmhurst Hospital’s ER, where his wife worked — and pointed a gun at an unarmed officer.
When clerk Marcos Motta tried to help, the gunman shot him in the jaw, while the officer ducked for cover.
The bullet just missed Motta’s jugular vein. “It was a miracle he survived,” a staffer said.
The gunman kidnapped his wife and took her to Fayetteville, N.C. before cops caught him days later.
Motta, now 69, said last week he might have been killed anyway if the hospital officer was armed: “I was right in the crossfire.”
Hospital spokesman de Luna said the city is against arming officers because guns can be wrested away and used to harm: “Hospitals are places of healing, where people go to as havens. Guns change that.”
In the early 90s, the city ran a two-year pilot program with armed officers in Lincoln and Kings County hospitals.
But then-Mayor Giuliani pulled the plug, saying there wasn’t enough violence to justify the effort.