Saturday, September 2, 2017

Salt Lake Police Arrest Nurse and Drag Her From Hospital

I'm not a lawyer. And I don't keep up with all of the ways in which the Federal government and various states and municipalities, often with winks and nods from the current Supreme Court, attempt to get around the limitations placed on government actions by the Fourth Amendment. But one thing which still seems to be in force, in law if not respected on the street, is that the police cannot absent your consent, your arrest, a warrant or some sort of probable cause take samples of your blood, your flesh, your DNA. A nurse named Alex Wubbels attempted to politely explain this to a police officer named Jeff Payne. Payne wanted to draw blood from a man who had been involved in an accident. Payne admitted to another officer that he did not have probable cause but wanted the blood drawn anyway. Wubbels refused and explained that the hospital policy, based on the law was that the hospital would not assist unless certain conditions were met. Payne apparently lost his temper and since he had been given previous authorization from his supervisor, arrested the nurse. Watch video below. Arrest starts at roughly 6 minute mark.


By all accounts, the head nurse at the University of Utah Hospital’s burn unit was professional and restrained when she told a Salt Lake City police detective he wasn’t allowed to draw blood from a badly injured patient. The detective didn’t have a warrant, first off. And the patient wasn’t conscious, so he couldn’t give consent. Without that, the detective was barred from collecting blood samples — not just by hospital policy, but by basic constitutional law.

Still, Detective Jeff Payne insisted that he be let in to take the blood, saying the nurse would be arrested and charged if she refused. Nurse Alex Wubbels politely stood her ground. She got her supervisor on the phone so Payne could hear the decision loud and clear. “Sir,” said the supervisor, “you’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse.”

Payne snapped. He seized hold of the nurse, shoved her out of the building and cuffed her hands behind her back. A bewildered Wubbels screamed “help me” and “you’re assaulting me” as the detective forced her into an unmarked car and accused her of interfering with an investigation. The explosive July 26 afternoon encounter was captured on officers’ body cameras and is now the subject of an internal investigation by the police department, as the Salt Lake City Tribune reported Thursday. The videos were released by the Tribune, the Deseret News and other local media.

On top of that, Wubbels was right. The U.S. Supreme Court has explicitly ruled that blood can only be drawn from drivers for probable cause, with a warrant. 
Wubbels, who was not criminally charged, played the footage at a news conference Thursday with her attorney. They called on police to rethink their treatment of hospital workers and said they had not ruled out legal action

As it turns out Wubbels and the hospital supervisors and lawyers were right on the law. Payne and his supervisors were wrong. Obviously the police were upset because as they saw it the hospital employees were making their job more difficult. But so what? Just because someone is making your job difficult doesn't give you the right to initiate force against them. This is an excellent example of how police work can go wrong. Policing seems to attract authoritarian personalities, people who are comfortable telling other people what to do, people who enjoy telling other people what to do, people who get quickly annoyed and angered when someone else doesn't follow their orders.

But America is not supposed to be about a supine citizenry meekly rolling over for some clown with a badge and a gun. No one should be above the law, especially not police. Because police have so much power and authority it is essential that when they misuse it, as was done here, that society cracks down very hard. Police must face consequences for illegal or unethical behavior. If we don't do this, as often we have not, we'll see more and more cops behaving as if they ARE the law. Too often the mainstream turns a blind eye to this behavior if the target of police misconduct was the other. But this time the victim was a white woman. That might get some eyebrows raised. Notice how the police supervisor also starts berating the nurse and trying to get more information from her. If I were her I wouldn't have said anything to the police after the arrest. The supervisor is only trying to justify his officer's actions. There's really no reason to engage in conversation at that point. Hopefully the nurse and hospital pursue any and all legal means for redress.
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