The Utah nurse who was arrested after refusing to draw blood from an unconscious patient says she has been overwhelmed by the support, and feels a “sense of urgency” when it comes to mending police relationships with the public and overall medical community.
“I think this resonates with people all over and that’s a problem,” Alex Wubbels, a nurse at University Hospital in Salt Lake City, said in an interview on the “Today” show Monday. “We have to fix this with effective communication and better dialogue between our two agencies.”
The July 26 incident captured on police body-camera video showed Salt Lake City Detective Jeff Payne dragging nurse Wubbels from the hospital and handcuffing her after she refused to allow blood to be drawn from an unconscious patient after a car-crash.
Wubbels said Monday that she released the video, which has sparked outrage since it was made public last week, because there “needed to be accountability.” She noted that her early conversations with Salt Lake Police Department were effective and they “wanted to walk down a path of positive change.”
“But I did not have that same response from the University police and the University security, so it was sort of trigger to say ‘this is what you need to see, so I’ll show you,'” Wubbels said.
Since then, a criminal and internal affairs investigation was launched, prompting the police department to put Payne and another officer on paid administrative leave.
The second officer hasn’t been formally identified, but officials have said they also were reviewing the conduct of Payne’s boss, a lieutenant who reportedly called for the arrest if Wubbels kept interfering.
Wubbels said she doesn’t know whether any actions would have been taken by the department had the video not been released, but she hopes this incident leads to a change in policies and procedures by the agency.
“I feel a sense of urgency for this conversation. We need to make this better. This can’t be happening, it shouldn’t be happening and if I have anything to say about it, it won’t happen again,” Wubbels said. “I’m not here to police the police. The police need to do that if they want to regain any kind of trust by me and, I think, the public.”
In the video footage, Wubbels calmly explains to Payne that she couldn’t draw blood on a badly injured patient who wasn’t conscious, citing a recent change in law. A 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirmed that a blood sample cannot be taken without patient consent or a warrant.
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The dispute ended with Payne saying, “We’re done, you’re under arrest,” and physically moving Wubbels outside while she screamed and said, “I’ve done nothing wrong!”
The patient, who was not suspected of criminal wrongdoing, was a truck driver who had been burned in a head-on crash with a car that was fleeing police. An Idaho police department identified the driver as William Gray, a reserve officer in the city of Rigby, and hailed Wubbles as hero for standing up to Payne.
“The Rigby Police Department would like to thank the nurse involved and hospital staff for standing firm, and protecting Officer Gray’s rights as a patient and victim,” the department wrote in a Facebook post. “Protecting the rights of others is truly a heroic act.”
The Salt Lake Police Department said the frustrated Payne had called his supervisor before the arrest and that several people went back and forth about the time-sensitive blood draw.
Police spokeswoman Christina Judd acknowledged that the officer’s frustration is “not an excuse.”
“It definitely doesn’t forgive what happened,” she said.
In a joint statement released late Friday afternoon, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown and Mayor Jackie Biskupski announced that Payne has been placed on full administrative leave as the Unified Police Department is planning to launch a criminal investigation into the incident.
“We cannot allow an incident like this [to] divide our community or taint the good work of SLCPD,” Biskupski said in the statement. “When I learned of this unacceptable incident last night, I was outraged and will ensure it is fully and independently investigated so our community can heal.”
After taking the nurse into custody, the detective left Wubbels handcuffed and waiting in a hot police car for 20 minutes before realizing that blood had actually already been drawn as part of treatment, said her lawyer, Karra Porter.
“This has upended her worldview in a way. She just couldn’t believe this could happen,” Porter said.
Porter, who joined Wubbles Monday on the “Today” show, said they have not ruled out a lawsuit. “Nothing is off the table,” she said.
“It hurts to relive it,” she told the newspaper of rewatching the footage of her arrest.
Wubbels said she thinks the video of her arrest, released amid an ongoing national conversation about police use of force, indicates that bullying can take many forms and can happen anywhere, not just in schools or on social media.
“This cop bullied me. He bullied me to the utmost extreme,” she told The Associated Press Friday. “And nobody stood in his way.”
She said she acted as any good nurse would, following her training and protocols to protect the rights of a patient who couldn’t speak for himself.
“You can’t just take blood if you don’t have a legitimate concern for something to be tested,” Wubbels said. “It is the most personal property I think that we can have, besides our skin and bones and organs.”
Wubbels’ attorney said Payne had argued he was allowed to take the patient’s blood because of “implied consent,” though law on that issue was changed years ago.
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Payne is among a group of officers who are certified phlebotomists, called upon regularly when a blood sample is required for a police investigation.
Messages for the Salt Lake Police Association union were not immediately returned. Payne could not be reached for comment.
There is a possibility the released footage was edited from the original raw video, though no involved parties have indicated that as a concern.
In response to the incident, police spokeswoman Judd said the department has since updated its blood draw policy to mirror what the hospital staff uses. She said officers have already received additional training but that they are still sorting out the department’s response since the law changed.
“We want to know where something went wrong, what we didn’t know, and why we didn’t know it,” Judd said.
The agency has met with hospital administration to ensure it does not happen again and to repair their relationship.
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“There’s a strong bond between fire, police and nurses because they all work together to help save lives, and this caused an unfortunate rift that we are hoping to repair immediately,” Judd said.
The hospital said it’s proud of the way Wubbels handled the situation. The nurse’s union National Nurses United called the arrest an outrageous act of violence.
The Tribune reports the patient was a reserve police officer from Idaho who was working his other job as a semi-truck driver when a car fleeing the Utah Highway Patrol crashed into him. Information on the patient’s condition wasn’t immediately available.
Published at 6:47 AM PDT on Sep 4, 2017 | Updated at 11:09 AM PDT on Sep 4, 2017