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Saturday, Jul 26, 2014
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ER at VA adding police presence

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Patients visiting the emergency department at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center will soon see something new — a 24/7 police presence.

Hospital officials decided to hire five officers to ensure a constant emergency department police presence in the wake of a fatal shooting there last fall, said spokesman Jason Dangel.

The changes have been in the works for a while and are unrelated to a recent shooting at a Veterans Affairs facility in Dayton, Ohio, said Mary Kay Hollingsworth, a spokeswoman for the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network, which includes Florida, south Georgia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Though national VA officials are reviewing security procedures at facilities across the country as a result of the Ohio shooting, there are no changes anticipated here, Hollingsworth said.

Local officials are addressing the situation here, Dangel said.

“Like many emergency departments, this is a high area of vulnerability,” said Dangel, adding that many private hospitals have a security presence in those areas.

“We always have a 24/7 police presence on campus, but we made some adjustments following the activity over the last year.”

On Oct. 25, Vincent Young, 68, who had a history of domestic violence arrests and told friends he was dying of cancer, walked into the lobby of the emergency room carrying a backpack, FBI Special Agent Dave Couvertier said at the time. Young said he had a bomb, and when police with the Department of Veterans Affairs confronted him, Young brandished a knife and lunged at them, Couvertier said.

VA police shot and wounded Young. He was treated in the hospital but died from his injuries.

The shooting sparked an FBI review, which has been completed. But FBI officials on Friday said that a Freedom of Information Act request is required to provide the results of that review.

Among other things, the hospital opted to increase its police force by 17 percent, from 29, according to Dangel. That was in part a result of the fatal shooting.

“The decision to move forward the hiring and 24/7 security presence in the emergency department was made based on the aforementioned vulnerability assessment, which would include review of the incident that occurred in our emergency department last October,” Dangel said. “It is important to mention that while the incident was significant and something that should not be downplayed, it alone did not drive the decision to hire additional officers and enhance security at the medical center. Our police service continuously assesses our operational environment for opportunities to enhance security.”

The hospital has budgeted $248,000 in base salary and benefits for the new officers, who are being recruited, Dangel said.

The Bay Pines VA police investigated more than 3,000 incidents between Oct. 1, 2012, and Sept. 30, 2013, according to Uniform Crime Report figures obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request.

More than half — 1,885 — were noncriminal, including responding to customer and patient assistance requests, false alarms, safety hazards, training events and vehicle accidents.

The next biggest category, with 753 responses, was parking, moving and nonmoving violations.

There were 594 police responses to disorderly conduct reports, according to the records, most of which were for complaints of disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, patient-to-employee threats and profanity or obscene language.

Officers investigated 70 larcenies, resulting in a loss of about $14,000 total.

Of the 39 responses to reported assaults, only one was for an aggravated assault, meaning a weapon, or an item intended to be used as a weapon, was involved, Dangel said.

Most of the offenders, 28, were patients, according to the report, and most of the victims, 23, were VA clinical employees.

haltman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7629

Twitter: @haltman

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