On the Rogue Cop and the Reasonable Nurse, Salt Lake City is Making the Bleeding Worse

by | Sep 3, 2017 | Crime, Culture, Peak Absurdity, Shawn | 0 comments

So far, Salt Lake City’s response to the rogue cop, Jeff Payne, who manhandled Alex Wubbles, the professional and respectful nurse who refused him access to take the blood of an unconscious accident victim raises more questions than it answers.The questions are serious and go to the competence and integrity of the Police Department.
 
Salt Lake Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Police Chief Mike Brown gave puzzling and unsatisfactory explanations at their Friday press conference. Biskuski said she did not want  “an entire police department to be painted in a bad light due to the actions of one individual. Clearly we believe the actions of this individual were not justified.” But, in fact this episode does paint the entire department in a bad light, starting with the explanation offered by Chief Brown, who stated:
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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.
.The Chief’s statement raises at least the following questions:
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Whether the arrest was lawful or not, the nurse was calm and professional. The cop escalated the situation with a sudden outburst of temper and force in a hospital ER room. Why was that not grounds for immediate suspension? What possible justification could any “investigation” uncover for his brutish behavior?
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Removing Detective Payne from the blood-draw program seems like the merest of administrative wrist slaps. What assurance do Salt Lake residents have that Payne will not be in a position to abuse his authority in other ways? (Under mounting public pressure, Salt Lake City Police Department later announced that Payne has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation).
 
Payne spoke by phone or radio with his commanding officer, a lieutenant at the station who instructed Payne to arrest Wubbels if she did not allow him to draw blood. If Payne’s action was improper, so was the lieutenant’s direction. What accountability does he have? What consequences might he face?
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Nurse Wubbels was on the phone with a hospital official who advised Payne “he was making a big mistake.” Wubbels further rehearsed to Payne the terms of an “agreement” between the hospital and the Department: Blood may only be withdrawn with a warrant, or with the person’s consent, or if the person is under arrest. Why were these communications not a very serious check on Payne and the lieutenant to make further inquiry before slapping cuffs on an on-duty nurse?
 
Is there a Memorandum of Understanding between the hospital and the Department on this issue? Did Wubbels accurately summarize its terms, demonstrating knowledge of the blood draw rules superior to the Department’s trained phlebotomist?
 
Announcing that the blood draw policy was immediately changed is problematic and raises further questions. Did the lieutenant’s orders, and Payne’s arrest comply with the policy, or did they violate it? If they complied, then the policy itself was seriously flawed. Is it reasonable to single out Payne for disapproval and sanction for obeying a direct order consistent with Department policy? What about the Department’s responsibility to have sound materials and training?
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If they violated the policy, then what problems or errors it required amending? What changes were made? Will the department publicly release the former and revised versions of the policy? Will there be review or accountability for the authors of the policy? Or for the officials or City legal staff who approved the policy?
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What training programs and review protocols does the Department have in place to ensure that officer knowledge and written policies and manuals reflect current legal and Constitutional standards?
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Before public outrage forced Payne’s suspension, who made the decision to leave him on active duty, with removal from on-the-job phlebotomy as the only current consequence? This incident obviously touched a sensitive nerve for the viewing public, but appears initially to have triggered a lesser reaction with the brass. How can the public be confident that the Salt Lake City Police Department is mindful of and protective of the rights of all citizens?