In a move to provide a more “friendly” patient experience, Erlanger Health Systems plans to unarm its security personnel, according to a letter that is being circulated by employees who are protesting the change.

“We cannot decrease our personal safety to increase the appearance of political correctness,” the letter states. “This is unsettling to most of us because we are in a high crime area. … If we need to adjust our security in any way we should increase it.”

Walden Security currently provides security to Erlanger. Off-duty Hamilton County Sheriff's Office deputies also back up the security guards and have arrest powers.

But the hospital's contract with Walden Security expires this year and the hospital is looking at new options for contracting security guards. The hospital submitted a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a new security contract this past summer and is set to award a bid in early December. Channel 3 has requested a copy of the RFP and will pass it along once Erlanger makes it available.

It's unclear how many employees have signed the letter. Channel 3 Eyewitness News obtained a copy of the document.
READ MORE | Erlanger Employee Letter

A memo sent by Erlanger President Kevin Spiegel was emailed to staffers Tuesday afternoon after questions about security were raised by Channel 3 Eyewitness News.

In the email, Spiegel said the security guards will include armed, off-duty law enforcement officers and security guards from both the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department and possibly Chattanooga Police Department.

“We will continue to have armed officers located in strategic locations,” the email denoted in bold lettering.

The new security guards will be wearing blazers, reflecting an “approachable, customer-friendly look.” But Spiegel said the armed officers will continue to wear their uniforms.

READ MORE | Erlanger memo to employees

Hospital employees say that the hospital has been placed on lockdown on numerous occasions due to risks. Cars are frequently broken into on the hospital property, according to the letter. 

Last month, a woman told Chattanooga police that she was sexually assaulted in the hospital's parking garage by two men.

"If we need to adjust our security in any way, it should be to increase it," the letter states. "As of now, we're already in an unsafe working environment."

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