Two police officers violated several department policies when they arrested a University Hospital nurse because she refused to draw blood from an unconscious patient, an internal affairs investigation by the Salt Lake City police department found.
A separate investigation by the independent Police Civilian Review Board found that Detective Jeff Payne and Lt. James Tracy also broke a number of department policies during the July 26 arrest of nurse Alex Wubbels.
Payne and Tracy now have 20 days to respond to the findings of the internal affairs investigation. Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown will then make a decision based on the investigation findings and the officers’ input, Salt Lake Tribune reported.
The two officers were placed on paid leave after body camera footage of the incident surfaced sparking nationwide outrage. Both face the possibility of losing their jobs. Payne was already terminated from his position as an ambulance driver.
A criminal investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Unified Police Department, and the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office is still ongoing.
“The events of July 26 have certainly shaken our community,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski at a press conference announcing the findings of the internal affairs department and the police civilian review board. “They have strained the trust we have built between the public and the police department. Many of us have been left wondering how this could possibly have happened.”
Payne pushed Wubbels out of the emergency room, pressed her against the wall and handcuffed her while forcing her arm high up behind her back. Wubbels sat in the police cruiser for 20 minutes before she was released without charges.
Wubbels refused to draw blood from an unconscious patient because a policy set up by the hospital and the police department requires that the patient give consent, be under arrest, or for the officers to have a warrant. None of these conditions were met.
The patient who was unconscious at the time was later identified as William Gray, a reserve police officer for the Rigby Police Department. Gray was taken to the hospital after a small car swerved into his lane and crashed into his truck, triggering a fiery explosion.
Gray’s police chief released a statement praising Wubbels’s actions as heroic for standing up for the unconscious patient.
Tracy and Payne each violated five policies, according to the internal affairs report obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune. The two exhibited conduct unbecoming of an officer, lacked courtesy in public contacts, and proceeded with an arrest, rather than issue misdemeanor citations “whenever possible,” per the Department’s guidelines. Payne and Tracy also violated the law enforcement code of ethics and the city’s standards of conduct policy.
“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 in a manner that inspires the requisite trust, respect, and confidence,” the investigators wrote about Payne in the report.
The investigators also wrote that Payne’s conduct was “inappropriate, unreasonable, unwarranted, discourteous, disrespectful, and has brought significant disrepute on both you as a Police Officer and on the Department as a whole.”
The internal affairs report also condemns Tracy’s actions, noting that Wubbels told them that Tracy was ultimately responsible for the wrongful arrest.
“[Y]our conduct, including both giving Det. Payne the order to arrest Ms. Wubbels and your subsequent telephone discussions with Hospital administrators, was discourteous and damages the positive working relationships the Department has worked hard to establish with the Hospital and other health care providers,” the investigators wrote.