Oregon Health & Science University’s Public Safety officers will begin carrying tasers in an effort to increase safety at OHSU. With the addition of tasers, OHSU’s unarmed officers will have one more option when called to diffuse potentially violent situations.
«Our top priority is to protect our patients, visitors and employees. After more than a year of extensive analysis and careful assessment, we decided that having highly trained officers carrying tasers at OHSU could be the best way to protect our community,» said Gary Granger, director, OHSU Public Safety.
As the number of visitors to OHSU has grown, so has the need for officers to have additional tools to protect patients, visitors and employees. During the last two years, requests from clinical departments in the hospitals for public safety assistance with violent visitors or patients has increased 127 percent.
«When uniformed OHSU officers are called to assist with a challenging situation, their first tool is simply their presence. Depending on the situation, officers will work with health care providers to determine the next tool to use, ranging from talking with the individuals to physically removing them to using tools such as pepper spray,» said Granger. «Public safety officers will use tasers only as the last resort and only in situations where someone was at significant risk of hurting themselves or others around them.»
OHSU’s safety analysis included a recent independent study by OHSU emergency medicine researchers, the Portland Police Bureau and the Portland Fire Bureau. In a review of 227 instances in which tasers were used, the study found that tasers are a safe and effective tool for controlling violent behavior.
This was one of the first population-based medical studies of taser-related injuries, according to the study authors. The researchers reviewed taser incidents documented by Multnomah County police reports. Although there were some minor injuries, none of these cases resulted in deaths, dysrhythmias or cardiac complaints. The study was published in the May 2004 issue of the journal Academic Emergency Medicine.
«Based on our study, we believe tasers are the preferred tool for public safety and law enforcement officers to use in preventing someone from getting shot or badly beaten up,» said Jonathan Jui, M.D., M.P.H., study investigator and OHSU emergency physician. «I’ve personally been confronted by physically aggressive visitors and patients. I think tasers in the hands of highly trained officers are an effective tool to use in dangerous situations.»
«Nationwide the taser has proved to be an effective tool for officers that have assisted in the safe resolution of countless violent encounters,» said Tom Forsyth, an officer in the Portland Police Bureau training division. OHSU Public Safety officers, like other law enforcement officers in the state, are certified by Oregon’s Department of Public Safety Standards and Training to carry out arrests and investigations under state law.
In addition to that standard training, and specialized training in handling sensitive patient situations, certified trainers from the taser manufacturer have spent up to eight hours training 30 public safety officers. All OHSU officers who carry tasers will receive this training and are required to feel the taser’s effects before they can carry the tool.
The use of tasers at OHSU will be closely monitored. A panel comprising of representatives from OHSU legal, clinical and administrative departments will review every incident in which an OHSU officer removes his or her taser from its holster, even in cases where the taser is not fired.
After one year, the taser program will be thoroughly re-examined to determine if tasers have been valuable in increasing safety at OHSU. «I hope we never need to use the tasers, but if we do, it will be valuable to have highly trained officers on campus who can use them safely and effectively,» said Granger.
OHSU is the only Oregon hospital or university to implement a taser program. Although tasers are carried by officers at several similar universities around the country, OHSU is taking a research and leadership role locally.
Text and information provided by OHSU.