Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: Alex Wubbels, the Utah nurse who was arrested by Salt Lake City police officer, detective Jeff Payne, for refusing to allow him to take blood from an unconscious patient without consent or a warrant, has been awarded $500,000 in a settlement with the city.
Wubbels said she plans to use a part of the settlement to advocate for wider access to police body camera footage to the public.
“I am not in the business of setting anyone up for failure. I want us to be successful in moving forward. And I think this is a small step we can provide to enable that potential success if we are going to start asking the police departments to have body cameras,” Wubbels said outside the Salt Lake City Police Department while standing next to her attorney, Karra Porter, reported the Deseret News.
Karra Porter, Wubbels’ attorney, said her firm will help Utah residents get access to police body camera footage.
“Any person in the State of Utah who wishes to obtain body cam footage of an incident involving them will be able to do so, no charge to them,” Porter said, according to FOX-13. “Thanks to Alex, there will be more transparency.”
Wubbels did not file a lawsuit prior to the settlement. Matthew Rojas, spokesman for Salt Lake Mayor Jackie Biskupski, said the settlement was a voluntary move by city officials.
“Salt Lake City has been focused first and foremost on ensuring policies and procedures are changed so things like this don’t happen again, and we are glad we could come to a resolution with nurse Wubbels,” he said.
Wubbels’ July 26 arrest at the University of Utah hospital went viral after she released body camera footage of the incident in September. An investigation by the Salt Lake City Police Department found that Wubbels was correct in asserting to Det. Jeff Payne that he needed a warrant if the patient was not a suspect in a crime.
Instead of adhering to policy, Payne arrested Wubbels. He was later fired from the SLCPD and charges against Wubbels were dropped.
EARLIER: Cop Fired After Nurse’s Arrest For Refusing To Allow Blood Draw Was Caught On Video – A Utah police officer, Detective Jeff Payne, was fired Tuesday after being seen on video roughly handcuffing a nurse, Alex Wubbels, for refusing to allow a blood draw in an incident that became a flashpoint in the national conversation about use of force.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown made the decision to fire Detective Jeff Payne after an internal investigation found he violated department policies when he arrested nurse Alex Wubbels and dragged her screaming from the hospital, department spokesman Sgt. Brandon Shearer said.
Brown said in a disciplinary letter that 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.
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, 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.
The letter said Wubbels told investigators that Tracy minimized her concerns, intimidated and lectured her, and made her feel like she was to blame for the events.
Wubbels’ 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.”
Asked about a potential lawsuit, Porter said she expects to meet soon with city officials to discuss next steps that could include settlement talks.
The officers have five business days to appeal the decisions by the chief.
The case received widespread attention after police body-camera video was released by Wubbels and her lawyer in late August.
The video showed her explaining that hospital policy required a warrant or formal consent to draw blood from the patient who had been injured in a car crash.
The patient wasn’t suspected of wrongdoing. He was an off-duty reserve Idaho police officer 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.
Payne told Wubbels his supervisor said he should arrest her if she didn’t allow the draw. Wubbels was later freed from the handcuffs and has not been charged.
Both officers were investigated and placed on paid administrative leave after the video became public. Salt Lake City police apologized and changed their policies.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, opened a criminal investigation into the arrest and asked the FBI to determine if there were any civil rights violations.
Payne was also fired from a part-time job as a paramedic after he was caught on camera saying he’d take transient patients to the University of Utah hospital where Wubbels worked and transport “good patients” elsewhere.
Payne had previously been disciplined in 2013 after internal-affairs investigators confirmed that he saxually harassed a female co-worker in a “persistent and severe” way.
His tenure also brought commendations for solving burglary cases and being shot in the shoulder during a traffic stop in 1998.
Tracy, meanwhile, earned commendations for drug and burglary investigations.