Phil Matier: Does SF General Need Sheriff’s Deputies?

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— There have been some interesting revelations in the wake of the Lynne Spalding tragedy at San Francisco General Hospital. Spalding was the patient who went missing in September from her hospital bed and whose body was found weeks later in the hospital’s stairwell.

The Sheriff’s department, which manages security at the hospital, has come under fire for its inadequate initial response to Spalding’s disappearance.

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has acknowledged mistakes by his department and we’re now learning that hospital officials and two mayors have wanted to do away with sheriff’s deputies at the hospital for the past few years. However, the sheriff’s department isn’t in any rush to leave.

It was politics that got them there in the first place. They used to have what was called ‘institutional police’ at these facilities. They were sort of quasi-cops, but they got absorbed into the sheriff’s department.

Mirkarimi has had his own personal problems that have crossed over into his political life—you may recall his extensively reported on domestic violence case. He’s not exactly looking to be stripped of his power, especially in the wake of the Spalding scandal.

Another part in staffing security at the hospital is the union issue. The idea of contracting this out to a private security firm goes against what a lot of San Francisco’s labor movement believes should happen and they have some pretty good muscle on the Board of Supervisors.

It would, however, be less expensive to contract out security. On one hand, you have well-paid sheriff’s deputies that are basically acting as security guards and even then, they’re barred by some of their own rules from doing things like restraining agitated patients. Hospital officials would like to see security be more pro-active and want more control overall of the situation.

Mirikarimi has said, if we want to improve things, that he would need more money, but some of those security guards are earning over $100,000 in overtime.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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