By John Burton
Among those clad in surgical scrubs, those in business suits and maintenance coveralls in Meridian hospitals, you may have noticed another uniform on duty: that of armed police officers. Meridian recently has begun using area off-duty, but uniformed officers, in its system, with Holmdel police incorporated at Bayshore Community Hospital, Holmdel, and members of the Red Bank department at Red Bank’s Riverview Medical Center. The officers are used to supplement existing private security that continue to oversee operations at Meridian Health facilities, according to April Guillerme, a Meridian spokeswoman.
“We do have a relationship with the police to make sure our team members, physicians and guests are all safe,” Guillerme said, explaining the decision was not based on any particular incident, but “It’s the world we live in, unfortunately.”
Hazlet Police Chief James Broderick said he’s been approach by the Holmdel department to use officers to supplement Holmdel’s; but that requires approval from the Hazlet Township Committee, which would likely take it up at an upcoming committee meeting.“It is our hope the police will bring an added sense of security,” Guillerme said. The facilities use the officers for periods determined by medical center and police but undisclosed to the public.
Red Bank Police Chief Darren McConnell said by their very nature—having to be available to the public at all hours—hospitals could be seen as “soft targets” for incidents, unlike schools and government buildings, which can remain locked until admittance is granted. Given this factor the additional security is justified and “It seems to work out well,” McConnell said. “It’s a way of hardening them up a little bit.” It also provides an opportunity for officers to familiarize themselves with the health care complex beyond the emergency department, which is where patrol officers tend to be most familiar, “So we know our way around,” should something occur, he added.
Red Bank PD regularly meets with Riverview Medical Center representatives for ongoing discussions about security, review procedures, as the department does with other entities located in the borough. This idea grew out of those meetings, according to McConnell. It’s not unusual for hospitals to use either off-duty or retired police “to fill some of their security needs,” observed Kerry McKean Kelly, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Hospital Association.
“Hospitals, especially ERs, can be a pretty intense, volatile situation, where any member of the community needs to access at any time,” Kelly pointed out. “So you need to keep it really safe.” Like other off-duty contracts, such as school events, construction projects, the entities pay the municipalities for the officers’ time. Their pay varies depending on such factors as the hours and officers seniority.
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