Saturday 21 September 2019

Police officer fired for dragging away screaming nurse who refused to take blood without consent

Jon Sharman

The Utah detective who dragged away a screaming nurse for refusing to draw blood from an unconscious patient has been fired.

Jeff Payne lost his patience with Alex Wubbels in July, grabbing her and handcuffing her after she reiterated a hospital policy that would not allow her to perform the procedure.

Body-worn video of the incident at University Hospital in Salt Lake City went viral, leading to outrage. Hospital bosses later told police to “stay away from our nurses”.

Attorney Greg Skordas, who represents Mr Payne, said his client planned to appeal a firing he considered unfair. Mr Skordas claimed Mr Payne would still be employed if the body camera footage had not generated so much attention and blown the events out of proportion.

But Salt Lake City police chief Mike Brown said in a disciplinary letter he was “deeply troubled” by Mr Payne’s conduct, which he described as “inappropriate, unreasonable, unwarranted, discourteous, disrespectful” and said brought “significant disrepute” on the department.

Mr Payne had also been 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 Ms Wubbels worked and transport “good patients” elsewhere.

He had previously been disciplined in 2013 after internal affairs investigators confirmed he sexually harassed a female co-worker in a “persistent and severe” way.

The officer’s supervisor, James Tracy, has been demoted from his previous rank of Lieutenant in the wake of the blood-draw incident.

Ms Wubbels, a former Winter Olympian, was not charged after her detention.

Her lawyer, Karra Porter, said they were pleased Mr Brown took action and recognised the officers had made crucial mistakes. She said she hoped the events would become a catalyst to more public conversations about appropriate police behaviour.

The case showed the vital importance of officers wearing body cameras and making those videos available to the public, Ms Porter said.

“Without the body camera footage, it would have been a she-said, they-said,” she said. “Alex feels very strongly that her story would have never been told if it weren’t for the body camera footage.”

Asked about a potential lawsuit, Ms Porter said she expected to meet soon with city officials to discuss next steps that could include settlement talks.

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