A Utah police officer who was captured on body-cam footage arresting a nurse who refused to draw blood from an unconscious patient was fired on Tuesday.
Detective Jeff Payne was axed after an internal investigation found he violated department policies when he arrested nurse Alex Wubbels and dragged her screaming from the hospital, a police spokesman say.
In a disciplinary letter, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said he was ‘deeply troubled’ by Payne’s conduct, which he described as ‘inappropriate, unreasonable, unwarranted, discourteous, disrespectful’ and said brought ‘significant disrepute’ on the department.
‘You demonstrated extremely poor professional judgment (especially for an officer with 27 years of experience), which calls into question your ability to effectively serve the public and the department,’ Brown wrote.
Attorney Greg Skordas, who represents Payne, said his client plans to appeal a firing he considers unfair and over the top.
Skordas said Payne would still be employed if the body camera footage hadn’t generated so much attention and blown the events out of proportion.
The case received widespread attention after the footage was released by Wubbels and her lawyer in late August.
The incident, which took place on July 26 at the University of Utah hospital, saw Wubbels explaining that hospital policy required a warrant, patient consent or the patient to be under arrest to draw blood from a man who had been injured in a car crash.
In this case, the patient wasn’t suspected of wrongdoing William Gray, 43, a commercial truck driver and an off-duty reserve Idaho police officer, was driving a semitrailer when he was hit by a man fleeing police in a pickup truck.
Payne nevertheless insisted on the blood draw, saying the evidence would protect the man. He told Wubbels his supervisor said he should arrest her if she didn’t allow the draw.
The officer then violently handcuffed the nurse and dragged her outside the hospital as she screams: ‘I’ve done nothing wrong!’
Wubbels was freed from the handcuffs after 20 minutes and has not been charged.
Payne’s supervisor, Lt James Tracy, was demoted to officer. His lawyer, Ed Brass, couldn’t immediately be reached.
Tracy made an impulsive decision in ordering Payne to arrest Wubbels without first taking time to understand the facts of the situation and the law, Chief Brown wrote in his disciplinary letter.
He said the order created chaos and unnecessarily escalated the situation.
‘Your lack of judgment and leadership in this matter is unacceptable, and as a result, I no longer believe that you can retain a leadership position in the department,’ Brown said.
Wubbels’s attorney, Karra Porter, said they are pleased that Brown took action and recognized that the officers made crucial mistakes that have eroded public trust. Porter said she hopes the events are a catalyst to more public conversations about appropriate police behavior.
The case shows the vital importance of officers wearing body cameras and making those videos available to the public, Porter said.
‘Without the body camera footage, it would have been a she-said, they-said,’ Porter said. ‘Alex feels very strongly that her story would have never been told if it weren’t for the body camera footage.’
The officers have five business days to appeal the decisions by the chief.