A Cop Arrested A Nurse For Protecting Her Patient's Rights. So The Police Chief Took Action.

"I think I owe it to the body camera footage."

Salt Lake City police detective Jeff Payne and his supervisor — watch commander James Tracy — were fired and demoted respectively on October 10 for their involvement in the arrest of University of Utah Hospital nurse Alex Wubbels three months ago.

Wubbels was placed under arrest on July 26 after she refused a request from Payne to collect blood from an unconscious patient who was involved in a crash, which, without patient consent or a warrant, would have been in direct violation of hospital policy as well as state and federal law. 


After Wubbels indicated that she was unwilling to comply, police body camera footage captured Payne yelling at her and grabbing her arms as he violently handcuffed her and shoved her into an unmarked car. The footage, which garnered national attention and contributed to an ongoing debate about police violence and use of force, also featured Wubbels yelling "you're assaulting me" and "this is crazy."

"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 explained in a termination letter to Payne that was obtained 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," he added.

The Washington Post notes Payne and Tracy each have over 20 years of experience in law enforcement, and says both men plan to appeal Brown's decision to fire and demote them, respectively. Prior to Brown's letter, the pair had been placed on leave pending an investigation.

In that same missive, Brown called Tracy the "catalyst that led to the arrest," and admonished him for a "lack of judgement and leadership" that has significantly damaged the police department's relationship with various members of the community. "Substantial damage has been done to the Department's relationship with nurses, the Hospital and, equally important, the public we serve," Brown wrote. "It will take considerable time and resources to rebuild that trust."

For her part, Wubbels told KUTV on October 10 that she was grateful for the body cam footage that captured her arrest. "I think I owe it to the body camera footage," she said. "Without that, my story would never have had the impact that it has had."

She later added, "I truly believe that body cameras are available and should be used for the protection of everyone."

Though Wubbels makes a valid point, it's important to note the existence of damning body or dash cam footage or an audio recording doesn't necessarily mean justice will be served. In fact, CNN reports a St. Louis cop was acquitted of murder charges in the shooting death of a Black man named Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011 despite video footage suggesting he might have planted a gun on the victim, and additional audio from the internal police vehicle camera captured during the car chase prior to the shooting in which Stockley told his partner he was going to "kill" Smith.

While video footage and audio recordings can help ensure all parties are held responsible for their actions, it's crucial to understand that other factors are often at work as well.


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