Eric Sean Clay is Chief Security Officer at CoxHealth, a not-for-profit healthcare system based in Springfield, Mo., that comprises six hospitals and primary and specialty care providers in more than 80 clinics.

Under Clay’s leadership, CoxHealth had the first three hospitals in Missouri to secure the IAHSS’s Program of Distinction recognition, the first in the state to issue NARCAN to its officers, to have a K-9 unit and to open a POST-certified law enforcement/healthcare security training center. He has increased the number of female and minority officers, as well as started a uniform allowance for officers, increased wages, created a succession plan with clearly defined expectations, and looked for ways to increase the caliber of officers.

Clay created CoxHealth’s training academy, which offers more than 140 POST-certified classes for the organization’s officers and law enforcement officers. He mandates all CoxHealth’s officers to take IAHSS basic, advanced and or supervisory level classes. Another area Clay has made an immediate impact is in the area of workplace violence on hospital staff and employees. Clay  sent 21 employees to a defensive tactics instructor school, where de-escalation, team tactics and individual defense skills are taught. He also sent 60 officers to Crisis Intervention Team training to better assist staff and patients in emergency departments and psychiatric units.

During his career, Clay has worked for the St. Charles, Mo. Police Department, the Orlando, Fla. PD and the U.S. Federal Air Marshal’s Service.

His career advice for future security and law enforcement professionals is, “We currently live in a distressing time where people seem polarized and quick to express their outrage. People’s unwillingness to treat others with respect and civility make the role of security and law enforcement professionals more difficul and all the more important. Nice matters, more than ever. As the first line of defense for your organization or community, you will have people question you. How you respond to this behavior is a choice. Try to accommodate others by putting yourself in their shoes. This will help you understand and appreciate their point of view. You don’t have to agree with their position, or even like it, but understanding it will definitely benefit you as you carry out your responsibilities. In our field, there is a tendency for self-isolation. It’s easy to develop an ‘us vs. them’ mentality. Try to avoid this. Rather than seeing problems as impediments to success, I would encourage you to view them as opportunities – to grow, improve things, or simply learn. Problems are inevitable. Changing your perspective forces you to constantly adapt and strengthen your problem-solving abilities.” 

Clay adds, “Albert Einstein famously said, ‘I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.’ As a lifelong learner, I would encourage future security and policing leaders to have a natural curiosity. If you’re always expanding your perspective and skills, you’re going to be successful. That’s not to say you have to know everything. Things change too rapidly for that. What worked yesterday won’t always work tomorrow. However, you can take what you have learned and build upon that to help develop ideas that build upon what previously worked.”

Editor's Note: At the time of publication, Clay will be VP of Security for Memorial Hermann in Texas.