It employs more than 100 security officers, many of whom are retired police officers or sheriff’s reserves.
It also uses more than 200 cameras trained on various doors, hallways and open spaces throughout its six main campuses plus two other sites.
So it’s not surprising that a survey by an online security magazine recently ranked Parkview Health as one of the most secure hospitals in the nation.
Still, the health network is taking advantage of a new law to beef up its security even further.
Parkview officials are on the cusp of becoming the first hospital in the state to have its own police force.
It’s something hospitals in other states already have.
And the creation of such a police force comes at a time when the city has seen a near-record number of homicides – mainly due to gun violence.
There are also many shooting victims who survive and end up at hospitals, sometimes with the potential to bring street violence through the doors behind them. A police force will add to security, Parkview officials said, bringing a uniformed presence inside the hospitals.
Our vision is to be the gold standard in health care security, said Tom Rhoades, the health network’s director of security.
The bill allowing hospitals to have a police force was written by Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn.
Calling for these police officers to have full police powers while on hospital grounds – security officers can’t make arrests – the bill comes at a time when reports of gunmen going into workplaces or schools leads newscasts or get splashed across the front pages.
I think the issue’s big in America today, and I think people want to feel secure when they go to public places, Kruse told an Indianapolis television station early last year.
While that’s certainly a threat now firmly planted into the national consciousness – Lutheran Hospital last year conducted a live shooter exercise – it’s not the sole reason Rhoades wants a police force at Parkview campuses.
One of the top concerns in health care, Rhoades said, is workplace violence stemming from several factors, not just a one-shooter scenario. Employees may find themselves in domestic situations in which angry spouses or lovers come to the hospital.
There are also people on the prowl to steal prescription drugs, with the dependency for Americans on those drugs skyrocketing.
And then there is the violence that can spill into emergency rooms after a shooting.
It’s not unheard of that shooting victims brought to hospitals are followed by people trying to kill them.
We do have a process in place to limit the risks, Rhoades said about dealing with violence at the hospital.
Still, though Parkview campuses have not dealt with a catastrophic situation like a shooter taking out multiple people, or a lot of instances of violence, that’s no reason to not put more safeguards in place.
We’re not doing this to be reactive, Rhoades said about hiring police officers. We’re doing this to be proactive.
Lutheran Hospital does not plan to create a police force but currently employs security officers as well as off-duty Fort Wayne police officers.
Lutheran also has spaces for those off-duty officers where they can prepare reports or do other work while giving them a prominent view of what’s going on throughout the hospital.
Shouldn’t be feared
A Parkview police force would not be there to only enforce the law, Rhoades said.
Officers can help with emergencies – such as getting an ambulance to the right place, or helping get patients to and from the Samaritan helicopter.
Many of the officers Rhoades will hire are expected to have law enforcement experience, he said.
Others who are not already full-fledged officers will be sent to the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in Plainfield, where many of the state’s police officers are trained.
These officers – Rhoades wants to hire 18 in all – won’t strictly be there to enforce and shouldn’t be feared within the hospital walls.
A lot of people think of police as people who enforce, said Rhoades, himself a retired officer from the Fort Wayne Police Department.
Our police officer roles will break down to about 90 percent securing and protecting, 10 percent enforcement, he said.