in Muncie, Ind., is forming its own police force in a move organizers say will reduce the need to call outside agencies for help.
IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital will launch its police department April 3 at a swearing-in ceremony, the Star Press
Legislation signed into law last May allows the governing board of a hospital to establish a police department. Officers must complete training, undergo a psychological evaluation and submit to a national criminal background check.
Incoming Chief Doug Hale said having a police force will allow the hospital to avoid draining resources from other departments and ensure that officers receive consistent training. The hospital currently has a 37-member security team consisting of law enforcement officers from other agencies.
"What we do on a daily basis will not change, but the level of training will be a positive change for us," said Hale, who heads the hospital's security team and also serves with the Orestes Police Department in Madison County. "Everyone will be required to go to the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, so we believe that will also help the community and our patients here, and also the local law enforcement agencies, over time, won't have to come here as often or be here as long."
Hale and Sharyl Mench, a 20-year Muncie Police Department veteran who will serve as deputy chief, said starting a department from scratch has been challenging. Hospital officials have relied heavily on the guidance of Rusty Goodpaster, executive director of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, as well as other local police departments.
"When we first started, we said, 'How do you make a police department? How does one go about that? Where does that authority come from?" Mench said. "And, so, (Goodpaster has) explained it all to us and he's been very helpful with it."
Hale said five officers will work the day shift, and at least four officers will work the afternoon and night shifts.
Everyone working part-time as a security officer at the hospital will be given the opportunity to join the department, Hale said.