This is intended to enrage you. (#8 in a series)

I don’t post every “bad cop, no doughnut” incident here because I just don’t have time. There’s only 24 hours in the day, and I have to work to pay bills and sleep so I can go to work to pay bills and then there’s all that time I spend in the opium den. (Heroin is déclassé. The true gentleman smokes opium.)

But this one set my teeth on edge.

Utah cop wants to draw blood from a hospital patient who was badly injured in an accident. Patient is not under arrest, is not a suspect (his truck was hit head-on by a fleeing suspect who died in the crash), police officer has no warrant, and patient is unconscious so he can’t provide consent.

Nurse says, “I’m sorry, but you can’t do that. It’s against hospital policy, and it’s against the law.”

Cop arrests nurse.

“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 the arrest:

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.”

This is one of those things I hear a lot in my CPA classes and on the Internet: “Even if you think the officer is wrong, go ahead and comply. You’re not going to win the argument in the field.” And I can kind of agree with that. Sometimes.

But there are cases like this one where you have to take a stand. Even if it means being handcuffed. Even if it means going to jail. Even if it means a beating. Maybe this is part of your oath as a health care professional. Or just simply a matter of taking a stand when somebody else can’t.

And it wasn’t just a matter of hospital policy conflicting with the law:

In Thursday’s news conference, Wubbels’s attorney Karra Porter said that Payne believed he was authorized to collect the blood under “implied consent,” according to the Tribune. But Porter said “implied consent” law changed in Utah a decade ago. And in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that warrantless blood tests were illegal. Porter called Wubbels’s arrest unlawful.
“The law is well-established. And it’s not what we were hearing in the video,” she said. “I don’t know what was driving this situation.”

The officer in question is Detective Jeff Payne. Remember that name: Detective Jeff Payne.

Salt Lake police spokesman Sgt. Brandon Shearer told local media that Payne had been suspended from the department’s blood draw unit but remained on active duty. Shearer said Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown had seen the video and called it “very alarming,” according to the Deseret News.

According to Reason:

Payne also said it was his watch commander, Lt. James Tracy, who told him to arrest Wubbels if she refused to draw blood.

Remember that name, too. Lt. James Tracy. (And Payne doesn’t get a pass because his watch commander said to do this: “I was just following orders” hasn’t flown since Nuremberg.)

Alex Wubbels, the nurse, is actually taking a more moderate position than I would.

For now, Wubbels is not taking any legal action against police. But she’s not ruling it out.
“I want to see people do the right thing first and I want to see this be a civil discourse,” she said Thursday, according to the Deseret News. “If that’s not something that’s going to happen and there is refusal to acknowledge the need for growth and the need for re-education, then we will likely be forced to take that type of step. But people need to know that this is out there.”

I hope she does sue. I hope she sues the department and Lt. James Tracy and Detective Jeff Payne in their individual capacities. I hope Lt. James Tracy and Detective Jeff Payne are stripped of their qualified immunity. I hope they are bankrupted and fired from the Salt Lake City police force. I would like to see them criminally prosecuted and stripped of their law enforcement licenses, though I’m not sure what charges could be brought against them. (Federal civil rights violations?)

3 Responses to “This is intended to enrage you. (#8 in a series)”

  1. Borepatch says:

    Both the Mayor and the Police Chief have publicly apologized.

  2. stainles says:

    Thanks, Borepatch. I think the Mayor and chief were conducting their press conference as I was writing that. But the WP article contains quotes from the chief and the SLCPD spokesman from yesterday…

    Here’s one of the things that bugs me. From the chief’s statement:

    To date, we have suspended the officer from the blood draw program. We have already replaced our blood draw policy with a new policy. All remaining officers on the blood draw program have reviewed, and are operating under the new policy and protocol.

    Great that they have a new policy. But as I understand it, it wasn’t just that Detective Jeff Payne wanted her to violate hospital policy, or the law: the policy that he wanted her to violate was actually one that the police department and the hospital had jointly agreed on.

    So am I being unreasonable in not placing a whole lot of weight in the chief’s statement that “oh, we have a new policy now” when his officer didn’t follow the last policy?

    (One of the local TV stations has a statement by Nurse Wubbles in response to the mayor and chief. Her statement is a lot classier than any I would have made under the same set of circumstances.)

  3. Hawk says:

    “I’m not sure what charges could be brought against them.”

    How about assault and kidnapping, since they had no cause to subdue and arrest her. In addition charge them with armed assault since they were armed when they committed the assault. Also false arrest.

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