Security consultant recommends upgrades at Western Psych after March shooting

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A security consultant's report on Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic released today describes an "overcrowded" and "cluttered" security room and an inadequate key-card system at the Oakland facility where John Shick shot multiple people March 8, killing one.

Since the shooting, UPMC and the Allegheny County district attorney's office have had a series of meetings about security that will lead to a "new architectural design of the WPIC facility with major overhauls in the reception areas at the main entrance" and other areas, according to the report, prepared by J.P. Hudson & Associates Inc.

One of the report's recommendations is to install ballistic armor at the main entrance and use protective armor within the walls.

One of the people Shick wounded, receptionist Kathryn Leight, had no protective barrier around her. She is suing Shick's estate.

And there were other issues.

While the J.P. Hudson report described sufficient security to prevent unauthorized entry into Western Psych, upgrades over the years to the interior has resulted in "a less than desirable security control center ..."

"Should an employee's card be lost, stolen or taken by force, the perpetrator could utilize the card to gain access to restricted areas until the card has been deactivated," according to the report.

"In the case of the Shick shooting, had he obtained a card from an employee, he could have gone throughout the hospital creating a substantial more amount of damage than what had already occurred," according to the report.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. released that analysis and another report by Condortech Services Inc. that recommended specific security upgrades and provided cost estimates.

In early October, Mr. Zappala described Western Psych's security during the Shick shooting spree as "negligible or non-existent" but said he had had productive discussions with UPMC.

The hospital system, Mr. Zappala said, planned to invest roughly $10 million in safety upgrades at Western Psych and other facilities.

Changes have been under way since then, including installation of a metal detector at the psychiatric hospital's main entrance and the use of armed guards.

UPMC officials could not be reached for comment this afternoon.

Shick killed therapist Michael Schaab and wounded five before he was killed by police.

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Jonathan D. Silver: or 412-263-1962.


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