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Utah Hospital Claps Back At Police After Video of Violent Arrest Of Nurse Was Made Public

Nurse Alex Wubbels was arrested in July for refusing to draw blood from an unconscious patient.

Utah Hospital Claps Back At Police After Video of Violent Arrest Of Nurse Was Made Public
Arrest of Nurse Wubbels captured by police bodycam (image via Youtube)

A July 26 incident at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, made public in a now viral video, has resulted in policy changes for the hospital, revised training for the university police force providing security for the hospital, the suspension of at least two members of the Salt Lake City Police Department and possible future criminal charges pending completion of an investigation ordered by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's office.

Nearly 100 protesters rallied outside police headquarters over the weekend as well.

The video from police bodycams shows burn unit charge nurse Alex Wubbels politely refusing to allow Salt Lake City police officers to collect blood from an unconscious patient who was badly burned in a head-on crash.

Hospital policy requires police to have a warrant, for the patient to be under arrest, or for the patient to provide consent to the blood draw. The failure to meet these conditions not only violates hospital policy but also the patient’s constitutional rights as determined by a 2016 Supreme Court ruling.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) also restricts what patient information heath care providers can share. The primary officer in question, Detective Jeff Payne, becomes increasingly hostile and aggressive as the scene unfolds, eventually grabbing Wubbels, pinning her arms behind her back and pulling her out of the building as she screams.

Gordon Crabtree, interim chief executive of the hospital, announced at a Monday news conference that police will no longer be allowed into patient-care areas or to have direct contact with nurses after the arrest of nurse Wubbels. Crabtree stated he was “deeply troubled” by the arrest and manhandling of the hospital employee who had refused to allow a Salt Lake City police officer to take a blood sample from an unconscious patient. Wubbels released footage of the confrontation obtained from police bodycam videos last week after consulting her lawyer, the hospital and police officials.

“This will not happen again,” Crabtree said. “There’s absolutely no tolerance for that kind of behavior in our hospital. Nurse Wubbels was placed in an unfair and unwarranted position...Her actions are nothing less than exemplary...putting her own safety at risk” to “protect the rights of patients.”

Officials spoke publicly for the first time Monday to make it clear that the hospital took action before video was released. Crabtree said changes took effect in August that allow only senior nursing supervisors to speak with law enforcement and ban conversations with police in patient care areas.

University of Utah Police Chief Dale Brophy apologized to Wubbels and hospital staff for his early response to the incident during the news conference. He said he hadn’t watched the body camera footage until Thursday evening.

“I was able to see firsthand how poorly this situation was handled,” Brophy said. “This is not how law enforcement professionals should act.” He added that Wubbels “should not have been subjected to arrest for doing her job” and vowed to put his officers through de-escalation training.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and the Salt Lake City Police Department issued a statement on the morning of September 1 in response to the video.

Salt Lake City Police Department responded publicly Friday evening.

Also on Friday, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill ordered a criminal investigation into the actions of Detective Payne.

Saturday almost 100 protesters rallied outside the Salt Lake City Police Department calling for the firing of Detective Payne. Protesters chanted, “Acts of police brutality, not in our community,” and held signs declaring, “Hands off our nurses” and “Fire Detective Payne.”

It’s impossible to predict all of the eventual fallout from this specific incident or how it will affect law enforcement policy across the United States. It does illustrate the use of bodycams is having a definite impact on public response to law enforcement. It is no longer a he said/she said world. We're now in the age of "let's go to the video replay".