Update: When a nurse was manhandled by a police officer for refusing to violate draw blood from an accident victim, the nation responded with collective condemnation. The officer didn’t have a warrant and arrested the nurse for following the law and standing up for the policies of the hospital. And now there’s even more fallout.
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When Salt Lake City nurse Alex Wubbels’ attorney released the body camera footage, Detective Jeff Payne, the officer who arrested her, was placed on leave. A criminal investigation was launched, too. The Salt Lake County district attorney’s office is checking to see if there need to be prosecutions.
Another officer is also on leave. Payne’s watch commander, Lt. James Tracy, has been relieved of his duties. The Salt Lake City Tribune is reporting that Tracy “has shut down his social media accounts after receiving death threats. His adult son, too, has been the subject of threatening messages.”
After Wubbels had been arrested, Tracy showed up at the hospital. He reportedly chastised the nurse for interfering in the investigation and preventing Payne from doing his job.
Wubbels then noted that the blood draw was pointless, as the crash victim had already been given pain medication at the hospital.
Additional body camera footage details their conversation. “If we’re breaking the law,” Tracy tells Wubbels, “If we’re doing wrong, there are civil remedies. It’s called taking fruit of the poisonous tree. If we took his blood illegally, it all goes away, alright? So there are civil remedies.”
Tracy then confides with Payne, the arresting officer, that he doesn’t think the charges against the nurse are going “to stick.” And then he formulates a plan to release her without having to admit any wrongdoing on the part of the police.
While many feel like the arrest was wholly uncalled for, there are some who feel like the officers’ actions were justified. “Payne’s attorney, Greg Skordas, said Friday that federal regulation requires a blood sample when a driver with a commercial driver license (CDL) is involved in a fatal accident,” The Salt Lake City Tribune reports. “By getting a CDL, a driver is assumed to have consented to a blood draw, according to the attorney.”
In every explanation, the officers contend they were acting to protect the victim in question, and not to punish him.
September 2nd: Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski announced that the Salt Lake County District Attorney will be investigating Detective Jeff Payne, the officer seen in the video. Payne has now been placed on full administrative. The second employee has not been identified yet.
“We cannot allow an incident like this divide our community or taint the good work of SLCPD,” the Mayor said. “When I learned of this unacceptable incident last night, I was outraged and will ensure it is fully and independently investigated so our community can heal.”
— Mayor J. Biskupski (@slcmayor) September 1, 2017
“This is an ever evolving situation, and we will do what is necessary to fully investigate the issue, uphold the integrity of the Salt Lake City Police Department, and strengthen the trust with our community,” said SLPD Police Chief Mike Brown.
Statements from Mayor Jackie Biskupski and SLCPD Chief Brown https://t.co/NX0vntBtKk
— Chief Mike Brown (@ChiefMikeBrown) September 1, 2017
As Fox reports, “the Salt Lake Police Association is representing the involved officers.”
The video in question shows a police officer assaulting a nurse in a hospital when she stood up for her patient’s constitutional rights. A badly injured patient was unconscious, and unable to give consent for the blood draw. There was no probable cause that necessitated the action, and now the officer is having to answer for his actions.
The incident occurred in the University of Utah Hospital’s burn unit. The Salt Lake City police detective wanted to draw blood from the a patient that had been involved in a crash. Yet he had no warrant.
Detective Jeff Payne couldn’t take the blood sample without a warrant or consent. To do so would be a violation of the hospital’s policy, and is settled law.
When nurse Alex Wubbels stood in his way, the officer threatened to arrest her. She called her supervisor. “Sir,” said the supervisor, “you’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse.”
The story, highlighted by the Washington Post, then took a serious turn. “Payne snapped,” the Post writes. “He seized hold of the nurse, shoved her out of the building and cuffed her hands behind her back. A bewildered Wubbels screamed ‘help me’ and ‘you’re assaulting me’ as the detective forced her into an unmarked car and accused her of interfering with an investigation.”
There is body camera footage of the event, and footage from the hospital, and it has been made public.
Wubbels held a press conference after footage was released with her lawyer. “I just feel betrayed, I feel angry, I feel a lot of things,” Wubbels said. “And I’m still confused.”
Salt Lake police spokesman Sgt. Brandon Shearer released a statement saying Payne is no longer on the blood draw unit. He is, though, still on active duty.
As if this isn’t convoluted enough already, the reason that the officer wanted to draw blood is also unusual. Though he was a victim of a car crash, he was not suspected of a crime. In fact, the officer wanted to draw blood to prove that he had not been under the influence of any substance during the crash.
As the post reports, “it all started when a suspect speeding away from police in a pickup truck on a local highway smashed head-on into a truck driver[…]. Medics sedated the truck driver, who was severely burned, and took him to the University of Utah Hospital. He arrived in a comatose state, according to the Deseret News. The suspect died in the crash.
“A neighboring police department sent Payne, a trained police phlebotomist, to collect blood from the patient and check for illicit substances, as the Tribune reported. The goal was reportedly to protect the trucker, who was not suspected of a crime. His lieutenant ordered him to arrest Wubbels if she refused to let him draw a sample.”
The video even shows that the officers were aware they weren’t following protocol.
“So why don’t we just write a search warrant,” one officer says to officer Payne.
“They don’t have (probable cause),” Payne responds. “I’ve never gone this far,” he says.
“The patient can’t consent, he’s told me repeatedly that he doesn’t have a warrant, and the patient is not under arrest,” the nurse says. “So I’m just trying to do what I’m supposed to do, that’s all.”
“So I take it without those in place, I’m not going to get blood,” Payne says.
“Why are you blaming the messenger,” her supervisor asks asks Payne over the phone.
“She’s the one that has told me no,” the officer responds.
“Sir, you’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse.”
And then the chaos really starts. While Wubbles hasn’t yet filed any law suits, it certainly looks like the Salt Lake Police Department should lawyer up.
Here is the whole video: