By now, most people probably have seen the disturbing video of a Salt Lake City Cop manhandling and arresting a University of Utah nurse for doing her job, following protocol, and protecting an unconscious patient in her care. The chaotic scene can be viewed here.
In brief, Detective Jeff Payne demanded access to an unconscious accident victim who was suspected of no wrongdoing in order to draw the man’s blood for the police investigation. Nurse Alex Wubbels cited hospital policy and an apparent agreement with the police department that allows a blood draw only with patient consent, or a warrant, or if the patient is under arrest. As none of those elements were present, she declined. Payne pressed the issue and radioed a desk lieutenant who instructed Payne to arrest Wubbles if she did not comply. Wubbles had a hospital lawyer on a cell phone speaker, who advised Payne he was “making a huge mistake.” Payne lost patience and his cool, yelled “We’re done here. You’re under arrest!” and charged and grabbed Wubbels, handcuffed her, and pushed her out the door toward his vehicle while she screamed “Help! I’ve done nothing wrong! This is crazy!”
After the video appeared on social media, public outrage erupted. Following a familiar pattern, official backpedaling and damage control quickly followed. But, authorities’ convoluted response actually presents more questions than answers. The questions are serious and go to the competence and integrity of the Police Department.
At a Friday press conference, Salt Lake Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Police Chief Mike Brown gave muddled, unsatisfactory explanations of the city’s response. Biskuski said she did not want “an entire police department to be painted in a bad light due to the actions of one individual. Clearly we believe the actions of this individual were not justified.” But, this episode does in fact paint the entire department, and not just one individual, in a bad light, starting with the explanation offered by Chief Brown, who stated:
“To date, we have suspended the officer from the blood draw program. We have already replaced our blood draw policy…