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Utah police officer fired after manhandling, arresting nurse
Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:02am

Utah police officer fired after manhandling, arresting nurse who was doing her job

A Salt Lake City police detective was fired and his supervisor demoted Tuesday for their roles in the arrest of a nurse who was manhandled and shoved screaming into a squad car as she tried to protect the legal rights of an unconscious patient.

Detective Jeff Payne was fired and James Tracy, his watch commander, was demoted two ranks from lieutenant to officer after an internal review by the Salt Lake City Police Department found their actions toward the nurse violated department policy and undermined public trust.

“I have lost faith and confidence in your ability to continue to serve as a member of the Salt Lake City Police Department,” Chief Mike Brown wrote in a termination letter to Payne that was posted by the Deseret News.

“I am deeply troubled by your lack of sound, professional judgment and your discourteous, disrespectful and unwarranted behavior, which unnecessarily escalated a situation that could and should have been resolved in a manner far different from the course of action you chose to pursue,” the letter read.

Payne is a 27-year veteran of the department, and Tracy has worked in law enforcement for 22 years, spending nine years as a lieutenant in Salt Lake City. Attorneys for both men told local media that they plan to appeal the decision.

“I do think that Salt Lake City did a fair job of doing the investigation, and I think that their findings are, by and large, accurate,” Panye’s attorney, Greg Skordas, told the Salt Lake Tribune. “But I think the chief reacted to a lot of public pressure and scrutiny in making a decision that doesn’t fit the conduct.”

Police body camera footage captured Payne erupting at nurse Alex Wubbels of the University of Utah Hospital on July 26 after she refused his request to draw blood from an unconscious truck driver who was involved in a head-on collision with a suspect fleeing police in another vehicle.

Hospital policy, state law and federal law all required Payne to present a warrant or get the patient’s consent to collect a blood sample. Payne had neither.

Wubbels, the charge nurse on duty, explained the hospital’s policy and even got a hospital supervisor on the phone to defend her. After a tense exchange that lasted several minutes, Payne snapped. He could be seen in multiple body camera videos grabbing Wubbels by the arms, handcuffing her and forcing her into an unmarked car as she cried “you’re assaulting me” and “this is crazy.”

Wubbels was later released without charges. The truck driver, who was a reserve officer at an Idaho police department, died late last month.

The footage went viral after Wubbels and her attorney played it at a news conference in early September, stoking a heated national debate about police use of force and eliciting a chorus of condemnations from nurses’ associations and others.

Payne and Tracy were placed on leave pending the investigation, and Payne was fired from his part-time job as an ambulance driver. Brown and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski publicly apologized to Wubbles, saying she never should have been arrested for doing her job. The hospital responded by barring law enforcement from patient-care areas and direct contact with nurses.

Brown called Tracy the “catalyst that led to the arrest” in his letter Tuesday demoting the officer. He wrote that Tracy had ordered Payne to arrest Wubbles for interfering with a police investigation “without fully understanding the nature of the situation.” The move “created chaos” and violated department policy, Brown wrote.

The chief acknowledged in his letter that Payne had withheld important information that might have changed Tracy’s mind, but said it did not excuse his actions that day.

“Your lack of judgment and leadership in this matter is unacceptable,” Brown wrote to Tracy.

“Substantial damage has been done to the Department’s relationship with nurses, the Hospital and, equally important, the public we serve,” he wrote. “It will take considerable time and resources to rebuild that trust.”

Wubbels and her attorney Karra Porter say they went public with the footage of the arrest because they believed police were not taking the matter seriously enough. Porter told the Tribune on Tuesday that she was pleased that Payne had been fired, and said she had not formed an opinion about Tracy’s discipline.

“Chief Brown took significant steps, and seems to understand the importance of regaining public trust,” Porter wrote in a tweet. “But further discussions are needed.”

Things happen that should never have happened. And when they do happen, it is important to take immediate action to set things right.

In this case, the bodycams were in instrumental in proving exactly who did what and when instead of having to rely upon a lot of "he said, she said".

    • Praise the Lord. ~ PH👏🏾👏🏾EY, Wed Oct 11 9:20am
      Something honest has occurred. Finally a police chief and mayor who stood up for integrity. They have restored public trust in Salt Lake City. I have a question. These two cops are not federal law... more
    • Whatever happened to COMMON SENSE? ~ DFM, Wed Oct 11 9:08am
      You are a cop in a hospital. You obey hospital rules. If you feel that the nurse is NOT behaving properly, you walk into the office of her supervisor, or the head of nursing, or even the head of the... more
    • whenever this type of incident occurs. Sometimes people in positions of authority let that authority go to their heads. They get on a power trip and lose sight of their limitations. One might be... more
      • fired .. absolutely .. ~ scott, Wed Oct 11 10:16am
        but the guy needs to be restored mentally as well.. he'll be the same without help .. and that's a given in my humble opinion .. I'd think there should have been an exercise in helping him change his ... more
        • I'm not sure it is needed... ~ Sprout, Wed Oct 11 11:23am
          IMO it was probably his POSITION that gave him the belief that he could do anything he wanted and to not kiss his ass was disrespect. Once he is no longer in law enforcement and doesn't have that... more
          • Excuse me. The cops are CIVILIAN! ~ PH😳😳EY, Wed Oct 11 5:21pm
            Otherwise your remark would suggest they are military. While many are military inculcated, and also Israeli trained, local law enforcement is civilian. This is true no matter how much military... more
            • They are LAW ENFORCEMNT OFFICERS which falls under a DIFFERENT set of standards of conduct when they are acting in the lawful discharge of their official duties than the standards of conduct that... more
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