MORRIS PARK, the Bronx (PIX11) — About two dozen hospital police candidates were in the middle of a training session at Jacobi Medical Center on Tuesday when someone opened fire in a hospital waiting room, shooting another man.

Derek Jackson, who runs the arm of Teamsters Local 237 representing hospital police employed by NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation, was there attending a training session for new officers in their second day on the job.

“I was in the auditorium with about 28 new hospital police candidates,” Jackson says. “And then we saw the hospital instructors, the officers run out of the auditorium, and we knew right away something was wrong.”

The NYPD said that the alleged gunman, 25-year-old Keber Martinez of the Bronx, fired at another man after a stare down that escalated. Martinez was arrested late Tuesday.

Jackson said Tuesday’s shooting was the the fourth gun-related incident at the hospital within the last 14 months.

He had nothing but praise for the security staff that got the situation under control quickly. He pointed out that hospital police do not work for the NYPD, but are a separate entity with the City Health and Hospitals Co. 

They are not armed with guns, batons or tasers, and only recently started receiving bulletproof vests.

He also said his officers across the city are pulling overtime and double shifts, as the force is pounded by COVID. Jackson said low wages are making it more difficult to recruit new officers, and he points to Jacobi as an example.

“Just like the doctors, just like the nurses, they are severely understaffed. Yesterday at Jacobi, which is [a] large hospital campus, they only had seven officers on duty,” Jackson said.

He said the minimum should be 13-14.

“And they did a magnificent job,” he said about the officers the were on duty.

A decade ago, there were 800-900 hospital police officers spread throughout HHC’s 11 acute hospitals and its dozens of inpatient, outpatient and mental health facilities, Jackson said. Now there are under 530 officers. In the last four years alone, HHC lost 180 officers.

“In this economy, people want to get hired with a living wage and do not want to accept a non-living wage, especially in New York City,” he said.

Jackson said the greatest impact on the officer ranks are members that have resigned because they were looking for higher pay.

But, he said, there are officers who’ve worked in hospitals for decades.

“We have a lot of individuals who retire that have done this their entire career,” Jackson says. “But we’re always looking for new people.”