By: Russell Kolins, BSSM, ICACP and Stephan Hollowell, CPP

In response to the much-publicized arrest of a Utah emergency room nurse who appears to have been following the protocols of her employer, the Kolins Security Group is appalled by the actions of the Salt Lake City Detective who appears to have illegally arrested her when she refused to take blood from an unconscious accident victim–one who was not under arrest at the time of the request.

Information now states that the detective was given instructions to arrest the nurse by his supervisor. This, on the face of it, would be difficult to believe, as the University of Utah Hospital and the Salt Lake City Police Department had agreed on the hospital’s protocols over a year ago. It is the actions or, rather, the inactions, of the University of Utah Hospital’s security department that should also be questioned. It appears that they did nothing to deescalate the situation in any way. It is unclear if a security manager or security supervisor was present throughout this incident. It is the hospital security department’s responsibility to ensure the safety of its community, which consists of its patients, visitors and staff–especially the front-line clinical staff.

It is imperative that not only a hospital’s own policies and protocols are written down and communicated to its staff, but also any policies that affect outside agencies, especially those of law enforcement. Because law enforcement officers assist hospital security departments with violent visitors and patients every day throughout this country, any policies that affect the both law enforcement and hospital staff must be understood and agreed upon by both agencies.

The hospital security department is normally the liaison between the hospital administration and law enforcement and, in the unfortunate case of the University of Utah nurse, the security department should have acted to deescalate the situation. If the detective did not want to listen to the hospital’s security officers or supervisors, then best practices dictate that this incident should have been escalated to the Director of Security and Administrative Coordinator of the Hospital, who should have attended the Emergency Department and attempted to amicably resolve the situation before it spiraled out of control. It is in the best interest of all parties–law enforcement, hospital security and hospital administration–to work collaboratively to ensure that they avoid actions which can bring disgrace to the police and a feeling of betrayal in staff toward their own administration and security department.

Further, each individual healthcare facility must establish its own hospital policies and procedures that relate to potential law enforcement issues. The facility’s legal department should provide the chiefs of all surrounding local, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies with its written policies and procedures. These agencies should then be given a reasonable window of time either to object or agree with these policies and procedures. Once there is an agreement, all agencies must sign the agreement collectively and the original document must be kept on file at the healthcare facility.

Once the policies and procedures agreement has been signed, it is imperative that the respective agencies and healthcare facility provide immediate training to all LEOs and healthcare staff to establish that they know the rules. If they don’t know the rules, security and healthcare staff won’t know how or what to enforce. The University of Utah Hospital nurse, according to video, conducted herself in a highly professional and responsible manner; she did everything the right way. In the event there is a future similar situation, a copy of the “Signed Agreement” should be kept nearby so that the nurse could provide a copy to any LEO who is oblivious to the rules or who turns rogue.

Policies and procedures are subject to change, in which case any changes must be communicated in a timely manner to law enforcement agencies, just as with the initial agreement. A good example of an issue that required a change was the relatively recent implementation of BWCs, (body worn cameras) by LEOs. The activity of medical and hospital staff, patients, and visitors; white boards with names and medical information; medical records and other private information was being recorded on body cameras, causing this information to become part of a police investigation record. HIPPA Laws were seriously breached by the same people who had sworn to enforce the law. Once becoming aware, the healthcare industry immediately went into repair mode by modifying existing agreements between the healthcare facilities and law enforcement agencies to cover the use of body cameras.

Kolins Security Group is prepared to provide expert consultants to review and recommend policies and procedures, as well as to provide expert services in litigation matters. Our professional experts are experienced in their respective disciplines of safety, security and law enforcement and undergo continuing education and training in order to provide the most cogent and current advice to our clients.