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When in doubt, trust the folks in the scrubs over the ones with badges

We have several updates on the July 26 incident in which a Salt Lake City police detective manhandled and arrested a nurse for calmly explaining to him that she couldn’t allow him to draw blood from an unconscious patient because of hospital rules and the patient’s stupid old Constitutional rights as codified by the stupid old US Supreme Court.

First off, the cop, Jeff Payne, has been (belatedly!) placed on administrative leave by the SLC police department, along with another officer who hasn’t been identified. The incident is being investigated internally by the police, and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Friday he’ll seek a criminal investigation as well. The nurse, Alex Wubbels of SLC’s University Hospital, has received apologies from Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and SLC Police Chief Mike Brown.

At a news conference Friday, Brown said the appropriate things for a police chief whose cop has suddenly become a huge embarrassment — but who before the video was released last week had only been suspended from the department’s blood-draw program:

“I am sad at the rift this has caused between law enforcement and the nurses we work so closely with,” Brown said. ”I want to be clear, we take this very seriously.”

“What I saw is completely unacceptable to the values of my administration and of the values of the Salt Lake City Police Department,” added Biskupski. “I extend a personal apology to Ms. Wubbels for what she has been through for simply doing her job.”

The mayor said she had not seen the video before it was released in a press conference by Wubbels’s attorney Thursday; the police chief also claimed that was the first time he’d seen the full video. Surrrre it was, “Mike Brown,” if that’s even your real name. Let’s see some ID, buddy.

In the July 26 incident, Payne lost his shit after Wubbels told him that he could not have blood drawn from an unconscious patient, William Gray, who’d been badly burned after a pickup smashed head-on into the semi truck Gray was driving. Gray was not a suspect in the accident. The pickup’s driver, who died in the crash, had been the subject of a high-speed chase by Utah Highway Patrol, and had swerved across the centerline directly into Gray’s semi. Gray is a reserve officer with the Rigby, Idaho, police department, which didn’t have much good to say for Detective Payne:

The Rigby PD also thanked Alex Wubbels and University Hospital for “standing firm, and protecting Officer Gray’s rights as a patient and victim. Protecting the rights of others is truly a heroic act.”

SLC Police spokesperson Christina Judd also clarified a misperception about the encounter in the burn unit of the hospital: While many assumed from the video and reporting (as we did) that Payne was demanding that Wubbels draw blood from Gray, he was instead demanding that Wubbels tell him which room Gray was in, so Payne, who is trained to draw blood in investigations, could draw the blood himself. The Logan, Utah, office of the Highway Patrol had asked Payne to perform the blood draw, which is common in fatal accidents. Judd also said that after the incident at the hospital, the police department updated its own guidelines for blood draws by officers to make clear they can only be done with a warrant or with patient consent.

Another officer, who was sent to the hospital to help Payne,

wrote in his report that he asked Payne “why he didn’t look into drafting a search warrant for the patient’s blood. Payne told me Logan Police Department said they didn’t have enough probable cause to do so.”

While just about everyone has condemned Payne’s actions, Tucker Carlson’s Cops Are Always Right Blog won the Jerkass Lottery for first rightwing source to insist Ms. Wubbels was wrong, wrong, wrong:

That’s the Daily Caller going where not even Glenn Beck’s The Blaze would (The Blaze’s hed: “Utah officer who brutally arrested nurse for complying with law just got a huge reality check.”) The Daily Caller editorial sneeringly explained that everybody was lying about the law governing blood draws by saying they require a warrant or consent, because the hospital’s policy on blood draws “doesn’t have the force of law” and besides, the Supreme Court has said that blood can be drawn without a warrant

if exigent circumstances justify an urgent search and seizure of evidence. The imminent loss of blood evidence, which would be useful in a drunk-driving case, qualifies as a potentially exigent circumstance.

Small problem there: This wasn’t an investigation of whether Gray had been driving drunk. He was the victim, not the suspect. And Payne didn’t claim he could draw the blood under the “exigent circumstances” exception — he was insisting that the blood draw would be allowed under “implied consent,” which is no longer a thing under the law — and that’s one of the policy updates the SLC Police has put in place, because their instructions to officers were a decade out of date. In short, do not take legal advice from The Daily Caller.

In any case, this isn’t going to happen again, at least not at University Hospital in Salt Lake City. The Washington Post reports that after the incident in July, the hospital revised its policies on where law enforcement officers will be allowed to roam. If they want to draw blood or see a patient, they’ll now have to talk to “house supervisors” instead of nurses or doctors, and will no longer be allowed to stroll into patient-care areas like the burn unit, where Wubbels was the charge nurse when Detective Payne took his name a bit too literally.

Gordon Crabtree, University Hospital’s interim chief executive, said he was “deeply troubled” by how Payne treated Wubbels, and added

“This will not happen again,” Crabtree said, praising Wubbels for “putting her own safety at risk” to “protect the rights of patients.”

You know, unless cops somewhere else get their legal guidance from rightwing blogs.

[Salt Lake Tribune / Salt Lake Tribune / WaPo / Daily Caller]

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