While city officials consider revoking the arrest powers of the Yale-New Haven Hospital security force, hospitals around the country grant varying amount of authority to their police officers seemingly without issue.
At a public hearing on Oct. 28, aldermen and concerned citizens alike sounded off on the contentious issue, calling the arrests “an injustice,” “ridiculous” and “an abuse of power.”
The Board of Aldermen approved a resolution on Monday urging the mayor and the Board of Police Commissioners, the final arbiters in the matter, to amend the 34-year-old policy.
“We were not surprised by the vote but we were disappointed,” Yale-New Haven Hospital spokeswoman Katie Krauss said, arguing that stripping the hospital police of their current right to arrest would make “a big difference.”
“Our police and security services perform an important public service and I think the mayor and the police commissioner realize this,” Krauss said. “We are optimistic that they will make a decision that is in the best interest of our city.”
The debate over the hospital’s long-held power hinges on a broader question — is the arrangement anomalous in comparison to similar hospitals or is it more widespread than the resolution of the Board of Aldermen would suggest?
A sampling of hospitals throughout the country provides context for the security arrangement at Yale-New Haven, a private, not for profit, 944-bed hospital.
The Johns Hopkins Hospital, located in Baltimore, Md., and internationally recognized as one of the premier health care facilities in the world, is a private, not-for-profit hospital with 1,039 beds. The security force at the hospital does not have the power to arrest, said hospital spokesman Gary Stevenson. While Baltimore police officers patrol the emergency room and monitor criminals who visit the hospital, the hospital security force is allowed to detain lawbreakers but must call municipal police to deal with the disturbance further.
“[The security guards] cannot physically restrain anyone unless they are posing a direct threat,” he said.
Archbold Medical Center, located in Thomasville, Ga., is also a private, not-for-profit hospital with 264 beds.
Archbold has a private, unarmed security force employed by the hospital that performs similarly to that of Hopkins, detaining threats to the hospital but unable to formally arrest them, said Will Watt, public relations manager at the hospital.
“The final authority rests with the police,” Watt said, adding that situations requiring arrest are infrequent. “In the past year, we have maybe had two or three [arrests]. Very seldom do we actually arrest.”
St. Rita’s Medical Center, a 437-bed, private, not-for-profit hospital in Lima, Ohio, on the other hand, has a police force empowered with the same rights to arrest as that of Yale-New Haven Hospital.
“[Arrest powers] are granted through a statute in Ohio that grants medical centers, hospitals, and universities proprietary police rights,” said Jeff Ramey, chief of police at the hospital.
“The system seems to be very functional for us,” said Ramey of the armed force that patrols the medical center. “It brings a high level of confidence to our officers and a feeling of safety to our staff.”
Ramey hastened to mention that arrests are infrequent, labeling such measures as “the last tool in our toolbox”.
Moreno Valley Community Hospital, a 101-bed regional public hospital serving the Moreno Valley district of California, has a similar arrangement to Hopkins and Archbold hospitals.
“[The security force] does not have the power to arrest,” said Karen Roberts, director of communication at the hospital, of the unarmed squad. “They try to handle things themselves but if they were unsuccessful and needed police, they would call [the municipal police].”