2 officers placed on leave following Utah nurse confrontation
Two Salt Lake City police officers have been placed on paid administrative leave after shocking video of a nurse's arrest sparked nationwide outrage.
The Salt Lake City police department announced Friday that it had put Detective Jeff Payne, the officer who arrested Alex Wubbels, plus a second employee, on leave "pending the results of an investigation." The second employee was not identified, but police spokeswoman Christina Judd confirmed to NBC News on Saturday that he was also a police officer.
The incident happened on July 26 after an unconscious patient was brought into the University of Utah Hospital following a road accident that left him badly burned. Payne wanted blood drawn from the patient.
In 19 minutes of police bodycam footage that was made public, Payne insists Wubbels, who works in the burn unit, draw blood. When Wubbels refuses, citing hospital protocol, Payne becomes increasingly agitated.
But Wubbels doesn't back down in the videos, which may have been edited.
"No, we're done," Payne says abruptly. "You're under arrest, we're going!"
He is then seen forcing her wrists into handcuffs before dragging her to the back of the patrol car. She was later released and was not charged.
The patient was a truck driver who was hurt when his vehicle collided with that of another driver who was fleeing police, according to NBC affiliate KSL-TV. The Associated Press, citing police sources, said he is a reserve police officer in Rigby, Idaho.
In a written report obtained by the Salt Lake City Tribune, Payne said he needed the blood sample to determine whether the patient had illicit substances in his system at the time of the crash. The patient's name has not been released.
The dramatic video prompted widespread condemnation for the officer's actions and apologies from the Salt Lake City police chief and mayor.
National Nurses United, the country's largest nursing union, called the encounter "outrageous."
Wubbels told NBC News on Friday that the worst part wasn't that she was manhandled by a detective — it was that none of the other officers who were watching intervened.
"I was being bullied and nobody was willing to speak up for me," she said.
The video was released through Wubbels' attorneys. Prosecutors have called for a criminal investigation into it.
NBC News has reached out to Payne for comment.
Wubbels, 41, is a former Olympic athlete who competed as an Alpine skier in 1998 and 2002. She has worked at the hospital since 2009.
The inquiry into her case will be run by Salt Lake County's Unified Police, Judd, the Salt Lake City police spokeswoman, said. The district attorney's office will review the findings and determine whether they merit criminal charges.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that a blood sample cannot be taken without patient consent or a warrant. Judd said Salt Lake City police updated their blood-draw policy "right away" to match the hospital's, and has already re-trained all remaining officers on the updated policy.
Police also met with hospital officials within 24 hours of the incident to figure out "what we needed to change to make sure it didn’t happen again," Judd said.
"We have a really strong tie to the nurses that we work with. The police interact with nurses multiple times a day sometimes, and we never want to fracture that relationship," she said.
"We took the incident very seriously from the moment we found out about it and have been working really diligently with Wubbels' attorney and ... herself, and trying to make sure that no one in the medical profession ever needs to fear a police officer here," she added. "It’s so sad that we’ve had this rift in our relationship with the medical community and we’re working hard to fix that."