Cops Setting Up Shop at Hospital

The Wheeling Police Department continued its effort to expand officer presence within the community Monday, announcing the opening of a police satellite office inside Wheeling Hospital – the department’s third such office opened in less than two months.

Police commanders joined hospital administrators and city leaders Monday at the hospital for a news conference announcing the opening of the office, which Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger termed a “win-win situation.”

“Our officers are here frequently, following up on car accidents or other reported criminal offenses,” Schwertfeger said. “This will provide them work space, and it’ll also provide the law enforcement presence the hospital should have. The officers appreciate this. I know the command staff appreciates this.”

Lt. Mike Anderson, who commands the eastern district of the police patrol, will oversee the office’s operations. On Monday, Anderson expressed his satisfaction with the office’s size and amenities.

Although on Monday it contained little more than a desk, computer, stapler and tape, Schwertfeger said the site will equip officers as well as if they were at a desk inside police headquarters downtown.

“Everything that they need – that they can find at police headquarters – is located in this satellite office,” Schwertfeger said.

The office will not have an officer inside around the clock, and police are not replacing hourly hospital security staff, Wheeling Hospital Director of Safety John Sebring pointed out. Rather, it gives police a work space to complete reports and conduct interviews without returning to headquarters.

In May, the department opened an office in Warwood Plaza and another inside Wheeling Park’s White Palace. Days later, Schwertfeger announced the department was still looking for additional office space. That’s when Wheeling Hospital executives “reached out to us and made us an offer we simply couldn’t refuse,” the chief recalled.

Mayor Andy McKenzie said the Wheeling Hospital campus is one of the most-traveled facilities in the Ohio Valley, with thousands of people passing through its doors every day. Having a police presence there was a prudent decision, he said.

Wheeling Hospital Chief Executive Officer Ron Violi said hospital staffers are “ecstatic” about the office and he believes patients soon will feel the same way. A police cruiser parked in front of the hospital is reassuring, he added.

“I think this is an absolute win-win all the way around,” Violi said. “I think it gives everybody a safer sense as they’re walking through the doors here. It’s nice to know that you have a police officer right there.”