I’ve written before that “as the son and brother of heroic police officers, I know a little bit about law enforcement – exactly enough to know that I know practically nothing,” and most people know even less. As such, when I see negative press about a police officer, I react in one of two ways: either “that was completely, unquestionably justified based on even rudimentary knowledge of police work,” or “I’m not sure; let’s wait for more facts.”
On rare occasions, there’s a third response, which can be best characterized as “why on Earth did that cop just drag a Utah nurse out to his squad car after she refused to draw an unconscious patient’s blood without a warrant?” You might notice that this category is oddly specific. Like I said, it’s very rare.
On July 26, a nurse at University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City defied a detective’s order to draw the blood of an unconscious truck driver who had collided head-on with a vehicle that was fleeing police. The suspect was killed in the crash, while the semi driver was rendered unconscious.
The officer, Detective Jeff Payne, informed Nurse Alex Wubbels that it was protocol to draw blood from any party involved in such an accident, but Wubbels countered (rightly) that it was against the law for her to do so without following search and seizure provisions under the 4th Amendment. Wubbels insisted that she would not comply with the officer’s demands without either a warrant or consent from the patient, or unless the patient were under arrest.
Payne became frustrated and placed Wubbels under arrest, forcibly escorting her to his car, where Wubbels waited until she was eventually released with no charges filed.
See the video for yourself here.
In my amateur opinion, the officer was clearly in the wrong and attempting to violate the basic human rights of both the nurse and the patient. But since I try to defer to expert testimony, I thought it would be best to criticize Detective Payne through the lens of experienced officers: my brother (B) and my dad (D).
Let’s take a look step by step, according to an adapted list of the metrics I’ve been given by police on how to react to police controversy:
What is the law:
B: “We have to get a warrant. … The reason for arrest is the thing that bothers me.”
D: “Clearly the cop overstepped his bounds. he violated her civil rights, the nurse’s, and attempted to violate somebody else’s civil rights.” Additionally, had Wubbels drawn the blood anyway, “the blood evidence would have become what they call in law ‘the fruit of the poisonous tree.’ It would then be thrown out as would their case, and justifiably so…because it was obtained contrary to the fourth amendment, because it violated their protection against unlawful search and seizure.”
Whose side of the story have I heard?
In other words, a lot has been made of Payne’s malfeasance. But did Wubbels do anything wrong?
B: “She did a good job requesting a warrant. When she was told she was under arrest, it would have helped if instead of trying to run away from the cop and screaming for help like she was being kidnapped, she asked for his supervisor and asked for a lawyer. I can’t blame her for being distressed, but when people act out like she did, rather than allow a huge scene to be made in the emergency room an officer is going to remove someone quickly. I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but if people freak out then it escalates, and a simple arrest, even a false one, can turn into a struggle.”
Put yourself in the officer’s shoes:
Even if Payne were right about the protocol, what should he have done differently?
D: “Even if he thought the nurse was wrong, he had many other avenues to take other than to bully and arrest her. He knew that and clearly acted with malice and should be gone. … Other avenues…would have been to go above her head or get the warrant or place the person under arrest if they had any other probable cause and he could’ve then pulled the blood, or ask for another nurse to do it.
What are the police trained to do?
This is particularly important since many are calling for department-wide trainings on how to handle this sort of thing. Is that even necessary, or should the cop have known better?
D: “It’s basic training for him that would have told him that he was violating these people’s civil rights. Every cop knows you could not draw blood from somebody without their consent or without a warrant. That is elementary. … He acted like a thug, a common schoolyard bully.”
What should happen now?
D: “I believe the cop should be fired and the nurse should be compensated by the city. … Fire the clown and compensate that poor nurse who was treated as she was. The cop acted like a thug and a bully. That’s why I say fire him. He is the type you do not want in that profession.”
Wubbels has stated that she won’t be filing a suit against the city, but that doesn’t mean the city shouldn’t offer restitution as a show of good faith. The hospital has come to Wubbels’s defense, and it appears the situation is being dealt with responsibly.
Feel free to copy this pattern of evaluation for future police incidents. It helps deter immediate outrage and remain sufficiently objective. As we’ve seen here, it doesn’t automatically excuse the cop’s actions either. It always pays to be level headed amid controversy.
Richie Angel is a Co-Editor in Chief of The New Guards. Follow him and The New Guards on Twitter, and check out The New Guards on Facebook.
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