Yale-New Haven Hospital security officers will have to wait at least one more day to see if the Board of Police Commissioners will reccomend that the officers forfeit their arrest powers.
The board hosted a special public hearing in the Aldermanic Chambers last night to let a packed house of city residents sound off on the matter, but the two hours allotted by presiding Commissioner John Einhorn were not enough to give all those wishing to speak their turn at the microphone.
The hearing will resume tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chambers, and at its conclusion the commissioners will begin their public deliberations on the controversial topic. However, Einhorn offered no guarantee that the board would reach a verdict by tomorrow night.
The Board of Aldermen passed a resolution Nov. 18 reccommending the revocation of the arrest powers.
Last night’s session did provide a few fireworks despite the lack of resolution, with impassioned pleas from hospital constables resulting in standing ovations from hospital supporters and an interruption of Local 34 President Laura Smith’s remarks by Einhorn, eliciting shouts of disapproval from the audience.
Despite the distractions, the key players from both sides weighed in. Hospital representatives justified the September arrests and emphasized the need for a safe hospital in the face of homeland security threats, while union advocates claimed that the hospital’s stance on labor organizing presents a conflict of interest in their implementation of police power.
Marna Borgstrom, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the hospital, praised the police force, saying police officers were not under the control of the administration when they arrested the eight leafletters.
“These arrests were legal, appropriate and consistent with the hospital’s solicitation policy,” Borgstrom said. “There is not a single officer on our force — who would allow him or herself to be used as a pawn in a political or administrative issue.”
“Yale-New Haven Hospital supports the freedom of speech and the rights of its employees to join unions,” she said.
Ward 26 Alderwoman Lindy Gold called the possibility of revoking the arrest powers “one of the most ridiculous knee-jerk reactions to a situation I have ever seen.” She said that an isolated transgression is not grounds for the scrapping of a 34-year-old arrangement.
“I don’t think you throw out the baby with the bathwater,” Gold said, praising the “stabilizing force” of the hospital’s police force in the Hill neighborhood. “The normal remedy is better individual training.”
Anthony Dawson, an 18-year veteran of the hospital security force, said he would no longer be able to pay taxes on his three properties in the Hill neighborhood or continue to pay his daughter’s tuition at Southern Connecticut State University.
“If you take this [right to arrest] away from me, I cannot do those things,” said Dawson.
Smith asked the commission to revoke the arrest powers of the security force, calling the hospital’s position “indefensible” in light of recent events.
“This is a bully’s behavior, and we are in need of your help to stop it,” she said. “The hospital’s solicitation rules are illegal and inconsistently enforced. And discrimination continues to this day.”
Fran Balamuth MED ’03, one of the eight arrested in September, said it was unwise for the hospital security officers to “waste resources interrogating and intimidating people they know by sight to stop them from legal, peaceful communication with their co-workers.”
The board will submit its eventual decision in the form of a recommendation to New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., who is the final arbiter in the matter.