Georgia ups penalties for workplace violence, allows for hospital police forces

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation May 2 that increases penalties for people who commit violence against healthcare workers and allows hospitals to establish campus police forces.

The bill, which passed the state's legislature in March, specifically provides for enhanced penalties for aggravated assault and aggravated battery committed upon emergency health workers and healthcare workers while they are on a hospital campus. 

Those convicted of aggravated assault or aggravated battery upon a healthcare worker at a hospital can now face three to 20 years in prison. 

The bill also allows Georgia hospitals to form their own police departments using certified law enforcement officers. Under the bill, a peace officer employed by a hospital who is certified would have the power of arrest, and hospital security personnel who are certified could carry a standard issue firearm or weapon.

Mr. Kemp signed the bill the same week as a mass shooting at Northside Hospital Medical Midtown in Atlanta on May 2. Northside has posted openings for police officers, according to NBC affiliate WXIA. The new law takes effect July 1.

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