Officers in the ER


Anna Lucia Arguello, Staff Writer

Should an officer be able to make an arrest in the Emergency Room? A question the average person doesn’t think to consider has become a reality for a growing number of hospital patients and staff. Following the testimony of a nurse only identified as Destiny, the Georgia Senate Study Committee on Violence Against Healthcare Workers found need for a greater security presence in hospitals. Earlier this month Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, signed a law that would allow hospitals to have private police departments.  

Destiny’s story of a colleague being assaulted and overwhelmed by a patient is not entirely uncommon. Healthcare workers are five times more likely to experience workplace violence than workers in other industries. Unlike in other professions, violent patients cannot be kicked out. Pleasant or not, they have an issue that requires medical attention. Sometimes the issue itself causes or worsens violent outbursts through symptoms like confusion or disorientation. Still, threats and incidents involving violence against hospital staff have only increased since COVID-19. Hospitals already struggled with nursing shortages, made worse by the fact that nurses no longer felt safe in the workplace. It’s easy to see why many advocated for a stronger law enforcement presence to solve the issue. 

However, there is also a fairly strong opposition to this measure, arguing that a police presence causes more problems than it solves. People who already have reasons to distrust law enforcement might put off getting necessary medical care out of fear for the consequences. Patients coming in with drug related issues now face the possibility of being arrested, and immigrants would rather suffer serious injury than be interrogated by officers about their place in our country. Concerns of racial profiling prevalent in policing might bleed over into healthcare, sowing more mistrust of the government into marginalized communities. The effectiveness of these measures has also been called into question with 23% of ER shootings involving the perpetrator reaching for an officer’s gun. Police presence may also increase delusions among those checking into the ER for psychiatric reasons, which could lead to more violent incidents. While there is no perfect solution to a problem, it might be worth looking into other options if this solution will negatively impact the health of Americans.