Hospital security officers now armed with Tasers

SEATTLE -- Security officers are now packing Tasers at Swedish Medical Center, making it the first hospital in the city to adopt the less-lethal weapons.

Hospital administrators say their security officers face volatile situations at times, and Tasers could offer an added layer of safety.

"I've seen security guards be attacked by people they were trying to escort out a few times, said Jacob Partlow, a Swedish employee who transports patients.

A Swedish spokesperson says they needed to find new ways to deal with sudden threats and preferred the limited, direct application of force Tasers provide, versus alternatives like pepper spray or batons.

"If you strike somebody with a baton you can leave lasting damage," said Clay Holtzman with Swedish. "Pepper spray, if you use it inside a hospital, you risk hurting other people or getting it in the (ventilation) system."

The 15 Tasers that Swedish purchased are capable of recording audio and video, which is one of the newer features of the weapons.

Still, the devices have raised questions regarding how they affect people with heart conditions, and the potential dangers they pose when used on some suspects who are intoxicated or on drugs.

Swedish says Tasers are a last line of defense.

"These will never be used on patients, under any circumstances, and they certainly are not to be used for patient compliance," Holtzman said.

However, determining who is or isn't a patient may not be so simple if security officers are called to a situation in a parking lot, or outside the building.

"I would only have questions if truly was used for anything other than a dire emergency where other people were in danger," said Kathi Lupson, a Swedish volunteer.

The hospital says its security officers are also trained in de-escalation techniques, and the protocol is always to first try to talk people down before anyone resorts to direct force.