Back at the beginning of September, I posted on a story from Utah that involved a police detective manhandling and arresting an ER nurse who would not let him take an illegal blood draw from an accident victim who was in critical condition. It included this play-by-play from the Washington Post. (The video is all from body cameras worn by police officers).
By all accounts, the head nurse at the University of Utah Hospital’s burn unit was professional and restrained when she told a Salt Lake City police detective he wasn’t allowed to draw blood from a badly injured patient.
The detective didn’t have a warrant, first off. And the patient wasn’t conscious, so he couldn’t give consent. Without that, the detective was barred from collecting blood samples — not just by hospital policy, but by basic constitutional law.
Still, Detective Jeff Payne insisted that he be let in to take the blood, saying the nurse would be arrested and charged if she refused.
Nurse Alex Wubbels politely stood her ground. She got her supervisor on the phone so Payne could hear the decision loud and clear. “Sir,” said the supervisor, “you’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse.”
Payne was not amused.
A 19-minute video from the body camera of a fellow officer shows the bitter argument that unfolded on the floor of the hospital’s burn unit. (Things get especially rough around the 6-minute mark).
A group of hospital officials, security guards and nurses are seen pacing nervously in the ward. Payne can be seen standing in a doorway, arms folded over his black polo shirt, waiting as hospital officials talk on the phone.
“So why don’t we just write a search warrant,” the officer wearing the body camera says to Payne.
“They don’t have PC,” Payne responds, using the abbreviation for probable cause, which police must have to get a warrant for search and seizure. He adds that he plans to arrest the nurse if she doesn’t allow him to draw blood. “I’ve never gone this far,” he says.
After several minutes, Wubbels shows Payne and the other officer a printout of the hospital’s policy on obtaining blood samples from patients. With her supervisor on speakerphone, she calmly tells them they can’t proceed unless they have a warrant or patient consent, or if the patient is under arrest.
“The patient can’t consent, he’s told me repeatedly that he doesn’t have a warrant, and the patient is not under arrest,” she 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.
Wubbels’s supervisor chimes in on the speakerphone. “Why are you blaming the messenger,” he asks Payne.
“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,” Wubbels’s supervisor says over the phone.
At that point, Payne seems to lose it.
He paces toward the nurse and tries to swat the phone out of her hand. “We’re done here,” he yells. He grabs Wubbels by the arms and shoves her through the automatic doors outside the building.
Wubbels screams. “Help! Help me! Stop! You’re assaulting me! Stop! I’ve done nothing wrong! This is crazy!”
Payne presses her into a wall, pulls her arms behind her back and handcuffs her. Two hospital officials tell him to stop, that she’s doing her job, but he ignores them.
“I can’t believe this! What is happening?” Wubbels says through tears as the detective straps her into the front seat of his car.
Another officer arrives and tells her she should have allowed Payne to collect the samples he asked for. He says she obstructed justice and prevented Payne from doing his job.
“I’m also obligated to my patients,” she tells the officer. “It’s not up to me.”
Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown fired detective Jeff Payne on Tuesday and demoted Lt. James Tracy for their involvement in the controversial arrest of University Hospital nurse Alex Wubbels.
“I have lost faith and confidence in your ability to continue to serve as a member of the Salt Lake City Police Department,” Brown wrote to Payne in a scathing letter notifying him of his termination.
Read the letter. Talk about brutal.
This is what makes the whole thing so egregious. Payne had already been in touch with the Logan, UT, police department, this was the organization that wanted the blood test. The Logaan PD told Payne that the hospital had drawn blood when admitting the patient and all they needed was the paperwork to request the lab results. Payne knew this and did not tell his supervisor and kicked off the whole confrontation for no reason at all.
I see this as one of the rare cases where an out of control, power mad cop actually got his comeuppance. Thank heaven he did this in an ER and was on camera. Heaven knows how many times he’s done this when there were no witnesses.