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Additional officers bolster VUPD’s presence, VUMC’s security

Jun. 16, 2016, 9:07 AM

With approximately 10 million square feet of building space, along with acres of land outside its hospitals, clinics and research facilities, Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) is an enormous maze of hallways and busy streets that are frequented by millions each year.

(photo by Daniel Dubois)
(photo by Daniel Dubois)

The safety and security of everyone who comes to VUMC to work or to receive care is imperative. To bolster an already visible presence, Vanderbilt University Police Department (VUPD), a Vanderbilt University unit that provides safety and security services to VUMC, recently recruited and has deployed an additional 30 new Community Service Officers (CSOs) who are now serving in strategically identified locations throughout the Medical Center’s 21st Avenue campus.

Now, VUPD’s presence within the Medical Center, which is led by Maj. Charles DeFrance, has increased to include 34 commissioned police officers and 76 non-commissioned CSOs. These officers are divided into three watches: day, evening and overnight.

VUPD’s coverage of the Medical Center involves two precincts, one covering the 21st Avenue campus and another covering Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks. Like the Medical Center’s central campus, the One Hundred Oaks campus is also covered 24/7. On the 21st Avenue campus VUPD maintains three offices in support of VUMC’s operations. These offices are located in the Adult Emergency Department, Children’s Hospital Emergency Department and a precinct office located in 2800 Vanderbilt Place.

“As the size of our workforce and the number of patients and families who visit our campus continues to increase, we feel the additional investment in safety and security is important for everyone. These new officers bring additional strength to an already visible and effective police presence operating throughout the Medical Center’s facilities and grounds,” said John Manning Jr., Chief Operating Officer and Corporate Chief of Staff for VUMC.

In addition to the zones already covered by VUPD’s constant presence, these new officers now cover additional areas within the Medical Center with a 24/7 presence including: the main lobby of Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital; both pods of the Adult Emergency Department and the Psychiatric Transition Unit; the Critical Care Tower, Light Hall, Medical Center North (MCN) and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital, while other areas now have a fulltime overnight presence such as the Plaza entrance to VUH, portions of MCN, Light Hall, the Robinson Research Building and The Vanderbilt Clinic.

Prior to the addition of the new officers there were already nine posts within the Medical Center. With the additional staffing, seven new posts have been added in key areas while two posts that were staffed through contract positions have been brought in house. The net result is an additional nine new posts. Officers staffing the metal detectors in the Children’s and Adult Emergency Departments are now full-time positions reporting to VUPD.

A post is a staffing model where an officer is assigned to an exact location or is responsible for a zone, such as a building or portion of a building. As many as four or five officers are required to support each post depending on the hours each post is staffed.

“We really feel the support of the Medical Center’s administration. We developed and put forth a new security plan and they supported it completely,” said DeFrance. “This is allowing us to enhance our security coverage throughout the entire Medical Center. We are confident we have additional visibility, presence and service.”

As a result of new staffing, two additional officers are now deployed in the Adult Emergency Department and one additional officer in the Children’s Hospital Emergency Department.

“In the Adult ED we experience a high volume of behavioral patients, and we were being asked to have officers stand by almost constantly due to some patients’ propensity for violence. This was causing us to redirect resources from elsewhere. The new officers in the Adult Emergency Department alleviate this need to redirect staffing resources, and the additional officer in Children’s allows us to satisfy patient standby requests, as well as better support the safety of the faculty and staff in the ED and throughout the hospital,” he said.

The portion of Medical Center North (MCN) devoted to patient care is small relative to the overall size of the building’s approximately 1.5 million square feet.

“The facility does not have a lot of patient care area but there are a lot of things going on in the building,” DeFrance said. “We looked to identify a better way to create presence. We asked for and received support to provide officers in that facility around the clock.”

One new post within Medical Center North patrols the building 24/7 while another post staffs the MCN main entrance seven days a week from 5 p.m. until 7:30 a.m., and during overnight hours the officer conducts pass checks for those entering the building.

DeFrance says that officers now patrol throughout Light Hall and Medical Research Building IV.

“As an institution we have a lot of resources dedicated to our research enterprise within these two facilities. We addressed this as well and now have an officer patrol these facilities from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. showing visibility there, as well as along VA Drive and the loading dock,” he said.

Despite these important safety and security enhancements as a result of the additional 30 new officers, DeFrance urges everyone at VUMC to remain security conscious against crimes of opportunity.

“One of the No. 1 things that we feel is a concern is when people leave valuables out in the open or leave doors open. People will walk by and see an item or see a door open and they’ll walk in and grab something. We have our officers remind people of these risks,” he said. “Keep your doors locked and put your valuables away. If you see someone who you think may not belong here, please don’t hesitate to call us. We train our officers to respond to these calls in a way that doesn’t inhibit someone’s freedom, but also make sure they belong here and have the proper credentials.”

“With these new officers we’re creating a better presence. We’re not just doing this from a security perspective, we are also aiding in a sense of service. We’re making sure the officers understand their role is not only as a CSO for security, but that we do a lot of other things to help, such as offer directions and help people in other ways to help create a calm environment. That’s part of our service too,” said August Washington, Chief of Vanderbilt University Police Department.

VUPD also has a new community relations officer whose role is to meet with people throughout the Medical Center to discuss safety and crime prevention tactics.

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