Mercy Health creates its own police force for Springfield hospital

Officers with the new police force hope to make the hospital safer for staff and patients.

Credit: Mercy Health

Credit: Mercy Health

In an effort to reduce response times and make the hospital safer, Mercy Health - Springfield has introduced its own police force.

The department, which officially started on May 25, will provide around-the-clock safety coverage of the hospital, Chief Trenton Brown said. He said other Mercy Health hospitals, like those in Lima and Toledo, have transitioned from security officers to police officers and have experienced the advantages of having a sworn police force rather than unarmed security.

“It’s nice to have that extra layer to where we are able to affect an arrest when we need to,” Brown said. “It really helps us to protect the patients and also the staff as well.”

Brown said there are seven police officers currently on the force, and they work with eight unarmed protective services members. He said the goal is to have at least two police officers, who are authorized to make arrests, and one protective services member per shift.

More unarmed security officers will also be hired for the hospital.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Many of the officers were protective services members to begin with, including Sgt. Andy Justice, who started as a police officer then worked security in hospitals, working with Mercy Health for about 16 years.

The hospital police force has sponsored officers through the police academy and will continue to do so, Brown said.

“Kind of keeping it within Springfield I think is a neat thing, too, where you’re able to invest in your employees and they can provide things back to you,” Brown said.

The police department purchased a new police cruiser through donations, and Brown said having the car will help officers patrol the parking lot, direct traffic and transport arrestees to other police stations as needed.

“I think visually it’s good too,” Brown said. “When people come in, they see that extra protection. I think it can help put them at ease.”

Officers will patrol the inside and outside of hospital, adjusting patrol areas as needed, Justice said. The emergency department is often an area that requires more of a police presence.

He said he personally likes to be visible, “smiling, shaking hands” and getting to know the community.

Brown said Jamie Houseman, the Mercy Health - Urbana hospital president and leader of the protective services team for the market, was instrumental in the long process of establishing the police force.

“This newly formed department will allow the hospital to better protect our physicians, associates, patients and visitors,” Houseman said in a release.

The hospital department has a collaborative agreement with the Springfield Police Division, Houseman noted. Springfield Chief Allison Elliott and several Springfield captains were present for the swearing in ceremony for Mercy’s new officers.

Brown said the department is succeeding thus far and everyone has a “little kick in their step” because they feel accomplished.

“We’re not really doing anything different in terms of how we’re interacting with patients and things like that, so that part of it is really staying the same,” Brown said. “I think its just more of an internal accomplishment.”

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