Utah officer fired after nurse’s arrest caught on video; lieutenant demoted
SALT LAKE CITY, UT — A Utah police officer who was caught on video roughly handcuffing a nurse because she refused to allow a blood draw was fired Tuesday in a case that became a flashpoint in the ongoing national conversation about police use of force.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown made the decision after an internal investigation found evidence Detective Jeff Payne violated department policies when he arrested nurse Alex Wubbels and dragged her out of the hospital as she screamed on July 26, said Sgt. Brandon Shearer, a spokesman for the department.
Attorney Greg Skordas said Tuesday that Detective Jeff Payne would likely still be employed if body-camera footage hadn’t generated widespread attention online.
He says Payne would agree to be disciplined, but the decision to terminate him went beyond what’s fair.
Payne’s supervisor, Lt. James Tracy, was also demoted to officer. His lawyer, Ed Brass, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
The case received widespread attention after the body-camera video was released by Wubbels and her lawyer in late August. Her lawyer didn’t have immediate comment on the decision to fire Payne.
It showed her explaining that hospital policy required a warrant or formal consent to draw blood from the patient who had been injured in a car crash.
The patient wasn’t suspected of wrongdoing. He was an off-duty reserve Idaho police officer driving a semitrailer when he was hit by a man fleeing police in a pickup truck.
Payne nevertheless insisted, saying the evidence would protect the man. Payne told Wubbels his supervisor said he should arrest her if she didn’t allow the blood draw. Tracy arrived on scene after the arrest and forcefully told a handcuffed Wubbels that she should have allowed the blood draw. She was later released without charge.
Both officers came under investigation and were placed on paid administrative leave after the video became public. Salt Lake City police also apologized and changed their policies in line with Wubbels’ position.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, opened a criminal investigation into the arrest and asked the FBI to probe for possible civil rights violations.
Payne was also fired from a part-time job as a paramedic after he was caught on camera saying he’d take transient patients to the University of Utah hospital where Wubbels worked and take the “good patients” elsewhere as retribution.
Payne had previously been disciplined in 2013 after internal-affairs investigators confirmed that he sexually harassed a female co-worker in a “persistent and severe” way.
His tenure has also brought commendations for solving burglary cases as recently as 2011 and a being shot in the shoulder during a traffic stop in 1998.
Tracy, meanwhile, has risen to through the ranks since he was hired in 1995, earning commendations for drug and burglary investigations. He was reprimanded in 1997 for moving two handcuffed people from one location to another a few miles away and releasing them without documenting the incident.