The police officer seen in a viral video arresting a nurse in Salt Lake City is now under criminal investigation, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill ordered a criminal investigation Friday into the actions of Detective Jeff Payne who aggressively arrested nurse Alex Wubbels on July 26 for refusing to draw blood from a severely injured patient.
Payne has been placed on administrative leave, The Associated Press reported. The Salt Lake City Police Department also said Friday that two of its employees have been placed on administrative leave while the investigation is underway. It is unclear if Payne is one of the employees mentioned in the agency’s statement.
As seen in the above video, taken by Payne’s body camera, Wubbels, the head nurse of the University of Utah Hospital’s burn unit, remains calm as she explains policy after Payne insists on collecting the blood sample of an unconscious patient.
Wubbels explains she is simply trying to her job, telling the detective “three things that allow us to [give blood samples] are if you have an electronic warrant, patient consent or patient under arrest, and neither of those things … the patient can’t consent. He told me repeatedly that he doesn’t have a warrant and the patient is not under arrest.”
The footage of the arrest shows Payne interrupting Wubbels as she continues to explain the policy to him before placing her in handcuffs, which causes a brief scuffle between the two.
The video, made public Friday, sparked a wave of criticism over Payne’s confrontation with a nurse who appears to be following hospital protocol.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Police Chief Mike Brown apologized for Payne’s actions and promised investigations from Internal Affairs and the Civilian Review Board.
“I was alarmed by what I saw in the video with our officer” and Wubbels, Brown said in a joint statement. “I am sad at the rift this has caused between law-enforcement and the nurses we work so closely with. I want to be clear, we take this very seriously.”
After Payne placed Wubbels in handcuffs, the nurse was released without being charged for anything. In fact, a 2016 Supreme Court ruling suggests that the nurse was right to not allow Payne to obtain a blood alcohol test without a warrant.
According Payne’s report obtained by the Tribune, the detective said he was advised by his watch commander, Lt. James Tracy, to arrest Wubbels for interfering with a police investigation. He also said he needed the blood sample to protect, not punish, the patient.
After seeing the video, National Nurses United, which is currently sponsoring a campaign to raise awareness of hospital workplace violence, publicly denounced Payne and the Salt Lake City Police Department.
“As the videos and news accounts make clear, there is no excuse for this assault, or her arrest, which sends a chilling message about the safety of nurses and the rights of patients,” said Jean Ross, the organization’s co-president.
Police spokeswoman Christina Judd told AP that the police department initiated an internal investigation within hours of the July 26 confrontation. Since the arrest, Payne has been suspended from the department’s blood draw unit.
After the video made rounds online late Friday morning, District Attorney Gill asked Brown to find an outside agency to look into the investigation, the Tribune reported. Later on Friday, the mayor’s office announced that the Unified Police Department would be conducting the criminal investigation.
Wubbels said at a news conference Thursday that she felt “betrayed,” “angry” and “confused,” and warned that she may consider taking legal action over the confrontation.
However, in a statement to the press released Friday, Wubbels said she had accepted the “sincere apologies” of Police Chief Brown and Mayor Biskupski, according to Utah’s ABC 4 News.
“I look forward to working with both of them to help promote further civil dialogue and education,” she said. “The common goal of all public service professionals should be to provide the best care to our fellow citizens.”
The University of Utah Hospital stands by Wubbels decision to protect the patient, saying she “followed procedures and protocols,” according to the New York Post.
Judd, the spokeswoman for the police, told AP on Friday that the police department recently updated its blood-draw policy to align it with the hospital’s policy, adding that officers have received additional training on the matter.
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