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Security Staff & Guns: A Double-Edged Sword?

icon Blog on Risk/Threat Analysis, Security Staff Management  •  posted 03/02/16
James Clark, an MRI technician at an imaging facility in New York was embroiled in an argument with a coworker early one morning in April. An officer responded to the scene, and within minutes was wrestling on the ground with the agitated worker. Clark managed to get the officer's gun and shot him, killing the 18-year police veteran. It's an example of what one hospital security director told SDR recently: "The problem with officers having guns is that people tend to get shot."
 
A report from Johns Hopkins reiterates the threat from firearms belonging to security staff falling into the wrong hands. According to researchers, one important takeaway is that 23 percent of shootings in emergency departments result from a perpetrator taking away a gun from security personnel or police. “Although hospital shootings are rare, security and enforcement personnel should adhere to safe carrying practices to minimize ED incidents,” the report concluded. (Hospital Based Shootings in the United States: 2000-2011, Annals of Emergency Medicine, 2012.)
 
A study of 99 prisoner escapes from healthcare facilities provides more evidence of the need to make weapons retention a priority topic during training. “The only weapons reportedly used by prisoners during their escapes were the weapons of the law enforcement/corrections officers or healthcare security staff,” according to the study. (The 2011 Prisoner Escape Study, the International Healthcare Security & Safety Foundation, June 2011.)
 
The risk can—and should—play into the decision to arm security personnel or not, according to Anthony Potter, senior director of public safety for Novant Health in North Carolina. Potter was reluctant to use armed security staff officers but ultimately decided to arm enough officers so that at least three are always present “so we could still do immediate response.” 
 
If staff has weapons then personnel need training and tools to help them keep control of weapons against individuals who make a grab for them. “Level three retention holsters can make it harder to disarm an officer and make it safer to carry guns than ever before,” according to Anthony Potter, senior director of public safety for Novant Health in North Carolina.

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