Alex Wubbels, head nurse of the burn unit at the University of Utah Hospital, kept her composure as she tried to explain to the policeman that by law she could not authorize him to draw blood from an unconscious, non-consenting patient who was involved in a highway collision. The policeman, after all, did not have a warrant.
The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in 2016 that police must obtain a warrant before requiring a suspected drunk driver to submit to a blood test, and that police must, with that warrant, have probable cause.
Wubbels quietly and firmly explained to detective Jeff Payne, who was wearing a body cam, that not only hospital protocol prevented her from authorizing a blood draw, but constitutional law also explicitly prohibited it. She called her boss to explain to the policeman that she wasn’t allowed to let him in.
It didn’t matter. Payne insisted that he be let in to take the blood, threatening to charge Wubbels and arrest her. As she held the phone up to Payne, her supervisor on the other end of the call kept saying, “Sir, you’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse.” Payne came unglued.
He tried to slap the phone out of her hand, forced her out of the hospital, then aggressively subdued her until she was in handcuffs. As she cried for help, he forced her into his police cruiser.
Wubbels cried out “help me” and “you’re assaulting me” as Payne told her to walk faster, accusing her of interfering with an investigation, according to The Washington Post.
Salt Lake Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Police Chief Mike Brown issued a joint apology to the nurse, after viewing the video of the incident. The mayor described the behavior of Officer Payne as “unacceptable,” while Chief Brown said he was “sad at the rift this has caused between law-enforcement and the nurses we work so closely with.”
“What I saw is completely unacceptable to the values of my Administration and of the values of Salt Lake City Police Department,” wrote Biskupski. “I extend a personal apology to Ms. Wubbels for what she has been through for simply doing her job.”
The incident occurred on July 26 and is now subject of an internal investigation by the Salt Lake City police department. Wubbels was not criminally charged. Officer Payne has been suspended from the blood draw program. And the Salt Lake City blood draw policy has been rewritten with a new policy, said Chief Brown in his statement.
“I just feel betrayed, I feel angry,” said Wubbels. “I feel a lot of things. … And I’m still confused.”
Wubbels is also a former Olympian, having competed as a skier in the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics.
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