Law enforcement is a tough job—and it’s a dangerous one. Every day you put on the uniform and start your shift could be the last time you see your family. Everyone should respect the police and what they do to keep us safe, but there are times where they do cross the line. Earlier this month, in Salt Lake City, it was reported that a police officer manhandled and arrested a nurse at the University of Utah Hospital for simply following the law. A police chase caused the suspect to crash head-on into truck. The driver of the truck was taken to the hospital, but was not conscious and could not consent to a blood sample. Nevertheless, the detective involved in the incident, Jeff Payne, refused to take into account the U.S. Constitution and arrested the nurse, Alex Wubbels, who was refusing to allow the blood sample be drawn without a warrant. It was all captured on video too. The whole fiasco took place back in July, but we’re just hearing about it now.
There was no probable cause, which Payne admits to on the video, so no search warrant to authorize the blood sample. Second, the victim works with Idaho law enforcement; truck driving is his primary job as he’s a reserve officer. The suspect died in the crash. Third, Payne, being part of the blood draw unit within his department, had to have known about the Supreme Court case that ruled no blood can be drawn without a warrant. Period. Payne says he was going by “implied consent” laws, which were changed over ten years ago. It was simply a cop on a power trip. It was wrong and now the FBI might get involved to investigate whether civil rights were violated. Payne has been placed on administrative leave. Nurse Wubbels received a formal apology from the mayor and the police department over this incident. The Salt Lake City District Attorney’s office launched a criminal investigation into this incident as well.
The detective didn’t have a warrant, first off. And the patient wasn’t conscious, so he couldn’t give consent. Without that, the detective was barred from collecting blood samples — not just by hospital policy, but by basic constitutional law.
Still, Detective Jeff Payne insisted that he be let in to take the blood, saying the nurse would be arrested and charged if she refused.
Nurse Alex Wubbels politely stood her ground. She got her supervisor on the phone so Payne could hear the decision loud and clear. “Sir,” said the supervisor, “you’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse.”
Payne snapped. He seized hold of the nurse, shoved her out of the building and cuffed her hands behind her back. A bewildered Wubbels screamed “help me” and “you’re assaulting me” as the detective forced her into an unmarked car and accused her of interfering with an investigation.
The explosive July 26 encounter was captured on officers’ body cameras and is now the subject of an internal investigation by the police department, as the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The videos were released by the Tribune, the Deseret News and other local media.
On top of that, Wubbels was right. The U.S. Supreme Court has explicitly ruled that blood can only be drawn from drivers for probable cause, with a warrant.
So why don’t we just write a search warrant,” the officer wearing the body camera says to Payne.
“They don’t have PC,” Payne responds, using the abbreviation for probable cause, which police must have to get a warrant for search and seizure. He adds that he plans to arrest the nurse if she doesn’t allow him to draw blood. “I’ve never gone this far,” he says.
After several minutes, Wubbels shows Payne and the other officer a printout of the hospital’s policy on obtaining blood samples from patients. With her supervisor on speakerphone, she calmly tells them they can’t proceed unless they have a warrant or patient consent, or if the patient is under arrest.
“The patient can’t consent, he’s told me repeatedly that he doesn’t have a warrant, and the patient is not under arrest,” she says. “So I’m just trying to do what I’m supposed to do, that’s all.”
The six-minute mark is where things get physical. The University of Utah Hospital has since barred cops from patient-care areas and direct contact with nurses as a result.
The patient was the victim of a head on car crash, instigated by a high speed police pursuit against department policy— Owen Barcala (@obarcala) September 2, 2017
The other driver--the suspect--died in the crash. So why did the cop want the victim's blood? To find something to disparage the victim...— Owen Barcala (@obarcala) September 2, 2017
And excuse the police from instigating the deadly car chase. This is not really uncommon, relatively speaking. Other cop on video saying...— Owen Barcala (@obarcala) September 2, 2017
No probable cause. It's not that they didn't want to go to effort of getting a warrant, they knew no judge would sign one.— Owen Barcala (@obarcala) September 2, 2017
Also, the Supreme Court decision holding it unconstitutional to draw blood w/o consent or warrant came down last year. The cop...— Owen Barcala (@obarcala) September 2, 2017
Is a trained phlebotomist in the police blood draw unit. There is *no way* he was unaware of a SCOTUS case that directly controlled his work— Owen Barcala (@obarcala) September 2, 2017
So this is incredible in that its actually worse than the video shows--it's criminal abuse of power in at least three ways— Owen Barcala (@obarcala) September 2, 2017
Oh, and dept reviewed video w/in 12 hrs, did nothing til it went viral. If you think he's just a rogue cop, you're not paying attention— Owen Barcala (@obarcala) September 2, 2017
Turns out, victim was off duty Idaho cop. Nurse Wubbels was arrested for protecting an unconscious officer from abuse by another officer.— Owen Barcala (@obarcala) September 2, 2017