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Why Mass. General doesn't arm its security guards

Tinker Ready extracts the relevant passage from a Times story about gun-toting security guards at hospitals in the rest of the country. At Mass. General, they're not even sure the guards should wear uniforms.

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Who guards victims of gang shootings when their rivals show up to the hospital seeking revenge? Who guards dangerous felons who have been arrested by the Boston Police or state police and transported to the hospital claiming they are injured?

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If police bring in a prisoner for medical care (such as the two people shut in that incident in Dorchester yesterday), officers stand guard over them in the hospital. If a prisoner from a local jail or prison is admitted, same idea, but with somebody from the sheriff's department.

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the cops guard them

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MGH hasn't had a stellar history of security when it comes to patients and prisoners attacking staff the past decade. Not so sure they should be a 'model' for other hospitals when it comes to security or lack thereof.

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any person who's in a service-style position, who is also responsible for informing said patients/customers/members/clients/patrons that, no, they cannot do what they would like to do, and no, they will need to stop doing X and do Y, is at risk of being attacked.

I've been physically threatened while lifeguarding!

A big part of the problem is that most employers don't want to hear it. They don't want to even entertain the idea that a patient/patron/customer/member/client could be unsafe, because then, it might scare away other customers. So they stick to the idea that we're all friends, and it makes the situation infinitely worse, because suddenly, there's some poor 18 year old girl sitting there by herself 15 minutes before close when three scary men walk in and she can't do anything or her manager will yell at her for providing bad customer service.

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some poor 18 year old girl sitting there by herself

How is this grown woman any more or less vulnerable than any other outnumbered human?

Remember: we have 18 year old women and men in the military.

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Certainly irrelevant when dealing with three assailants.

The distributions of male and female sizes overlap quite substantially, as well, meaning that vast majority of men and women are close to the same size. That's because the distributions are roughly normal, rather than evenly distributed across the range. You have a few women in the lower range, and a few men in the upper range, but the rest overlaps quite substantially.

You might look into an online course in biostatistics or statistical inference if you want to learn how to work with these kinds of data. There is so much more to a data set than an average or other "summary statistic" when dealing with human population statistics!

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The distribution of a difference of two independent draws from two normal distributions is a normal distribution centered on the difference of the means with a width given by the RSS of the widths of the two distributions. So yes,
a little more than half the time, a random woman will be smaller than a random man.

Especially three of them.

What were we arguing about again this time?

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There's a sanctity associated with hospitals, and I respect that some of the administrators choose to respect it. I was quite stunned walking past long-rifle armed police on my routine day at work in Longwood right after the marathon bombings. We can't accept that as a new normal if we wish to continue living normal lives. Yes, incidents do happen, but a society can't live on lock-down for very long before "society" loses its meaning.

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because in this case it presupposes both that gun-free is synonymous with normal and that everyone who goes through the hospital is both gun-free and normal. The first one is extremely subjective, even in liberal Massachusetts, and the second one is demonstrably false.

Like all the tired arguments about banning X here and Y there, because X and Y are bad here and there, but somehow not everywhere else, disarming security guards in hospitals will not solve the problem of armed people going into hospitals to make bad things happen to good people.

I understand and respect the idea that a workplace shouldn't have the trappings of a war zone, but I submit to you that in an open-to-the-public place like a hospital, shopping mall, or college campus, the balloon pops the moment you realize that you even need security guards at all. And while there's a world of difference between a workplace that has security guards and one that doesn't, the difference between arming the guards and not is a matter of subjective emotional thinking, not any kind of objectivity.

I read the article about Mr. Pean. And no, I don't think it was right for the security guards to shoot him. And I don't think it was right that the folks called in to physically wrestle with and subdue a patient were armed. But I can't make the leap to say that all security guards in hospitals shouldn't be armed.

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balloon pops the moment you realize that you even need security guards at all.

A bouncer is basically a security guard too though, and I'm pretty sure we don't want them armed.

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because they're in a position where their job is to make physical contact with people, just like the guys who are supposed to subdue mental patients.

But it might be a good idea to have an armed guard standing off in a clear and visible space where he's not expected to be in the thick of it.

That's one of the reasons British police don't like carrying guns. They like to get physical with their suspects, and it wouldn't be safe to do so if there were a loaded gun nearby. It's a balance between stand-off and up-close. The Bobbies get away with choosing to balance there because Britain has next to zero gun ownership by virtue of having tough laws and being an island.

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I worked there for three years.

The facility is very busy and very packed with all sorts of things that should not get hit by bullets - patients, medical staff, housekeeping staff, physical plant features that are needed to keep people alive, equipment, etc.

Collateral damage is a very serious practical consideration in tight quarters.

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are legitimate reasons not to have guns as the go-to option for security guards inside the hospital.

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You do know that many doctors do carry personal firearms and the they are one of the few special classes of people deemed "suitable" to have unrestricted licenses by the city of Boston?

Being an ER doctor, abortion doctor, psychiatrist, or even having a prescription book is enough to be put at high risk.

Even Brookline, which is known for being the most restrictive municipality in the state (to the point of demanding club memberships at hundreds of dollars despite court rulings that isn't kosher), issues permits to doctors because of the risk and what's happened to doctors in town.

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A security guard (who in this case didn't work for the hospital) can neutralize a threat:
http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/10/30/da_sa...

Or an armed security/law enforcement official can be shot with the very firearm they're carrying:
http://www.boston.com/metrodesk/2013/07/31/police-respond-report-shots-f...

Give the hospital workers a say in the matter. It's their lives that are being risked. If a majority vote to allow armed guards, then they do, if a majority votes to disarm guards, then so be it. I myself would vote for uniformed armed guards. Last thing I'd want is BPD or SP putting a slug in the chest of a guard out of uniform who's holding a firearm while attempting to defend the hospital staff.

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Not that long ago a German pilot flew a plane full of people into a mountain. We cannot inoculate ourselves from all the crazy people out there.

Every day out freedom is being chipped away piece by piece in the name of "security".

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Having worked at Mass General, I know that it would be difficult to start shooting at a suspect on the property without grave risk to the thousands of people packed into the facility at any given time - patients, medical staff, service workers, etc.

It is a very tight campus, and there are a lot of people and things at risk if shooting starts.

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What happened to the Mass General Hospital Police? If I remember correctly they had uniforms, guns and cruisers. Did they disband them? I know that the they went to the state police academy with the various college police throughout the state and I believe were made SSPOs (special state police officers)

Maybe this article needs to differentiate between hospital security and hospital police.

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http://www.massgeneral.org/police/ There is no mention on their website of any armaments. Where you might expect to see a Special Weapons and Assault Team, MGH has a Strategic Management Assessment and Response (SMART) Team. Again, no mention of armed response or firearms. They may have weapons somewhere, but they don't seem to be carrying them as a normal thing.

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Flipping through the cable channels at night, I sometimes stumble on the reality show with Boston ERs. Watching once, we were treated to seeing MGH security taking down a problem patient. They were all the size of NFL players and wearing suits, so the resembled henchmen to me. Not evil henchmen, since they were going something good, but not the kind of guys you would want to cross.

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Can't have security guards carry any of those scary guns. What exactly would happen if an armed assailant got onto hospital grounds and was going after people? Wait for the armed cops to show up?

Hospital security guards should be professional, experienced and armed, not un-armed, inexpensive mall rent-a-cops hired to just satisfy lawyers and insurance companies concerned with liability and premiums.

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They aren't mall rent-a-cops; they are actual, trained professional police. That doesn't mean they have to carry guns, and they seem to understand that in the vast majority of situations, the presence of firearms is more dangerous than their absence. "Professional, experienced and armed" police shoot innocent people, themselves, and each other more often than you apparently think.

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