Utah Nurse's Abuse by Police Detective Goes Viral; Does the Outrage Actually Mean Anything?

Even other law enforcement agencies are throwing shade.


Alex Wubbels

A Utah hospital that became the center of a holiday weekend media blitz has enacted new controls on police access in order to avoid a repeat of a nurse's abuse and arrest.

A Salt Lake City police detective's terrible treatment of University of Utah nurse Alex Wubbels was the outrage story of the weekend. In the July incident, Wubbels refused to comply with Det. Jeff Payne's demands for the blood of a man put in a coma when he was struck during a high-speed chase. (The patient in question was an innocent bystander, and he was not suspected of any misconduct.) This past Thursday, Wubbels released body camera footage that showed Payne responding to her refusal by roughly manhandling and briefly arresting her.

Everything about the video footage cast Payne in a terrible light. Wubbels didn't just randomly decide on her own to defy his orders: She had hospital administrators on the phone with her to explain that she was following hospital policy. Payne didn't have a warrant, the patient was not under arrest, and the patient was not able to consent to the blood draw. Wubbels said she was not permitted to assist. Payne responded by dragging her out of the hospital.

On Monday, hospital officials revealed that they were so appalled by Payne's behavior that they've changed their rules to control how and where police officers may seek access. (This policy shift had apparently already happened before the publicity caused by the videos.) Police are no longer permitted in patient care areas, and they'll have to go higher up the supervisory ladder when they have requests rather than dealing directly with the nurses.

To see how little support Payne is receiving even from other authority figures, consider the reaction from one of the employers of the comatose patient, William Gray of Idaho. Gray is a trucker, but he's also a reserve police officer with the Rigby Police in Idaho. As Wubbels' story was going viral, the Rigby Police posted a message on Facebook that, in no uncertain terms, defended the nurse's decision to resist Payne's orders:

Within the first hours of Officer Gray being admitted into the burn unit, an incident occurred between hospital staff and an officer from an agency in Utah who was assisting with the investigation. The Rigby Police Department was not aware of this incident until August 31st, 2017. The Rigby Police Department would like to thank the nurse involved and hospital staff for standing firm, and protecting Officer Gray's rights as a patient and victim. Protecting the rights of others is truly a heroic act.

The Rigby Police Department would also like to acknowledge the hard work of the involved agencies, and trusts that this unfortunate incident will be investigated thoroughly, and appropriate action will be taken.

It is important to remember that Officer Gray is the victim in this horrible event, and that at no time was he under any suspicion of wrongdoing. As he continues to heal, we would ask that his family be given privacy, respect, and prayers for continued recovery and peace.

Possibly not getting enough attention in all this is Wubbels' concern that what happened to her might not be an isolated incident. I don't mean the arrest; I mean nurses being pressured to assist police in drawing blood when the cops don't have warrants and the patients are not consenting. In interviews since she's gone public (such as this one with KUTV2), Wubbels has said that her original goal in releasing the videos was to reach nurses and police in rural areas of Utah to "get the education out there" about appropriate conduct in these cases.

At Reason we have regularly documented brutal police searches. Cops frequently run roughshod over citizens' Fourth Amendment rights in zealous attempts to get evidence of even the pettiest of crimes. It would not come as a surprise if other nurses felt like they had little choice but to cooperate with police demands to draw blood, even after the Supreme Court ruled a year ago that a warrant was required under such circumstances.

It's good that Wubbels' treatment by Payne (and by his watch commander—let us not forget that Payne was "following orders") inspired mass outrage. But it's not just Wubbels, or just nurses, who face this problem. This is part of a much larger pattern of police routinely violating the Fourth Amendment, often aided and abetted by courts.

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  1. She’s lucky she was not summarily executed for Failure To Obey.

    1. Anything can happen… after business hours. In the dark of night.

      Maybe I’m a paranoid loon, but I hope she has some kind of personal protection.

      1. Cops get in car wrecks all the time.
        Emergency rooms get chaotic.
        Wrong things get pumped into your blood stream.
        Accidents happen.

        1. Wrong things get pumped into your blood stream.

          You reminded me of this scene from Catch 22, PT.

        2. “Police are no longer permitted in patient care areas…”
          Says the article.

          “Who will police the police” is a question that has been asked since Roman times. Shall the hospital call the cops, on the cops, when they barge into places where they do not belong? Will the hospital arm the doctors and nurses and tell them to “fire at will” at rampaging piggy-wiggies?

          Inquiring minds want to know!!!

          1. Especially since the hospital “police” so valiantly failed to protect Wubbels from Payne.


          2. A few scattered points-

            As it is ER departments have become increasingly violent, so there is a degree of quid pro quo that happens with the police to maintain the peace. The last thing you want is a miffed police force when someone is out of control in the ER.

            A friend of mine who use to work at a telecommunications company would have to regularly bat down illegal requests from law enforcement, with the attendant threats if he didn’t comply. I myself have heard officers openly discuss planting evidence on suspects and failing to respond to officer down calls of officers who didn’t toe the blue line.

            Point being police corruption is rife and endemic. This is just the latest example.

            Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is actually a pretty easy fix: citizen juries. Beyond body cameras, having civilians ride and audit law enforcement gives a bird’s eye view of what law enforcement deals with daily so sensible policies can be formed. It also spreads the cost of corruption so much that it isn’t as viable. Bad behavior becomes that more difficult to cover up and ignore.

            In fact, citizen juries can be used effectively at nearly every level of government to insure compliance and minimize corruption.

    2. If she is in a union, he might have gotten reprimanded for that. Unions don’t like you screwing with revenue stream.

    3. Mmmmmm nurse…in an actual hospital… I think, maybe, that’s outrageous enough to get him to resign.

      And then go work somewhere else.

    4. If she’d had a dog with her, I’m sure Payne would have shot it.

      1. Sadly that’s too often true.

  2. Payne says on the video something like “I’ve never had to go this far” shortly before he arrests her. It’s pretty clear that he’s threatened to arrest nurses in the past to get blood samples.

    1. I think it’s important to note that. I suspect that Payne lost his shit because he’d never had this reaction to one of his (unlawful) requests. And now, like most cops who’ve been regularly stomping on people’s rights with no consequences, he’s shocked at the reaction.

      1. Is there anything worse than an uppity peasant?

      2. Cops don’t enforce the law. They enforce their will. They do whatever they want, and we are expected to do whatever they command. Period. Lawful, unlawful, don’t matter. They do what they want and use violence whenever their commands are not obeyed. The fact that they face no consequences for their illegal actions only confirms this.
        This guy might lose his job. I doubt he will. And if he does there will be a couple dozen departments trying to recruit him because he doesn’t take any shit from people who know the law.

        1. Comply or die.

        2. Rule 308 is always an option.

          1. I figure that after about 2 to 4 dozens exercises of Rule 308 nationwide in situations like this that the cops will begin to change their behavior, but probably not before.

    2. Did Payne ever give a reason for wanting the blood of a bystander? I can understand wanting the blood of the person who was running from you, but why the bystanders too?

      1. Since the guy who actually caused the accident was being chased by cops, there may have been concern that the cops were therefore to some extent responsible for the crash. Obtaining evidence that the other driver was under the influence of one substance or another would, by the puritanical standards of American law enforcement, implicate him, too, thereby mitigating whatever amount of the blame was due the pursuing officers. Must protect the Blue by any means necessary.

        1. It would likely drive the forthcoming civil settlement down by a quite a bit.

        2. If the victim is part of 25% of adults had a little smoke over the vacation week-end and he had a detectable level of THC metabolites they could have filed DWI & felony manslaughter charges against him, and finally let him off with “leaving scene of accident” as long as there were no nasty lawsuits by the Stoned Trucker.

          It would be leaked that he had an astounding level of THC in his bloodstream, and we’re lucky the cops got him off the road before he killed again.

          1. The victim was also a part time cop, but they didn’t know that at the time.

        3. Nice cynical theory but it fails on logic. You police-haters/anarchists just can’t help yourselves can you?
          The drawn blood would not be able to be admitted into evidence if the patient, who was unable to give his consent and absent being a suspect of any crime, fought its inclusion. The officer had to know that.
          What is a reasonable explanation is that the patient could, reasonably have wanted his blood drawn, to head off any civil lawsuit he might face, that would try to paint him as being, somehow, at fault.
          Cops have seen these kinds of things happen and it could be inferred that the officer involved was trying to do the guy a favor.
          Absent from the “reporting” by Suckford, is that the nurse wasn’t being asked to draw the blood, but that the officer, by some unknown set of circumstances, was a police officer, who had obtained certification as a phlebotomist. She must have physically prevented the cop from doing what he thought his duty in collecting all relevant evidence. There had to be a reason that there was some form of agreement over hospital policy with the police and drawing the blood of suspected drunk drivers.
          Sounds like a hospital overrun with SJW’s.

          1. You sound like you are a cop who is part of the problem. Would you have violently arrested an ER nurse who was doing her job and following the instructions not only of her superiors, but doing exactly what the SLPD had agreed was proper protocol? If so, then you don’t deserve the public trust that comes with being a cop.

            This story resonates because it isn’t a SJW case. It is a story of an out of control cop who tried to bully a nurse into giving him something that he knew he was not entitled to get. There is absolutely no ambiguity or room for debate here. He did not have the right to get access to the patient to draw blood. He knew that he didn’t have that right. Instead, he picked on the person he thought had the least power, the nurse on the floor. That is the classic sign of a bully.

            Line police officers need to understand how this incident undermines their credibility and respect among law-abiding citizens. Police need willing cooperation from the public to do much of their job, and incidents like this won’t help.

          2. What in the ever-living fuck is this?

            You’re saying that any cop who happened to “think he was doing his duty” and is a certified phlebotomist can just barge into the hospital and take blood from anybody?

            You really, really think that? You think that if an officer’s motives are good then there needs to be no search warrant. You think the rule of law goes out the window as long as the officer is doing someone a favor.

            And then you say something about “suspected drunk drivers”. WTF? You had just said the guy wasn’t suspected of a crime.

            And you have the stupidity to call someone else out on logic. FUCK YOU.

          3. “Sounds like a hospital overrun with SJW’s”

            Yes, someone who believes in the 4th Amendment must be a Social Justice Warrior.

            Your stupidity runs beyond the pale.

          4. Really? Cops draw people’s blood in order to prove that they AREN’T under the influence? I always thought the sole purpose
            of testing a suspect’s blood was to prover that they WERE under the influence. Silly me!

            Don’t forget, Payne’s supervisor instructed him to ARREST the nurse if she didn’t cooperate. That seems like a rather drastic step to take if your sole motivation is to “do a favor” for someone who isn’t being suspected of a crime.

          5. Your entire premise is wrong. Just because in a criminal case a lawyer can get evidence excluded if the circumstances are discovered and argued by that lawyer is not a reason to forego the exercise of the BoR. Take until told not to is a crime in itself, although not ever enforced.

            Also, there is no benefit for this victim to have their blood drawn. It can only work against them. Reasonable doubt is removed when assholes like you ensure the plaintiff has all evidence on a player laid out for them. He doesn’t have to prove he wasn’t affected or intoxicated. Assholes like you have to prove he was, not that you wouldn’t have someone lie or just make up evidence.

            IOW, fuck off, comrade.

          6. Um, I know of no hospital in the 50 states that would direct its nurses or staff to stand aside and let a police office “who had obtained certification as a phlebotomist” draw blood in their stead. The stupidity of such a notion is mind-boggling, to be exceeded only by the stupidity of a LEO who would think even for a moment that this or any hospital would do so. I can’t even begin to list the ethical, procedural and Constitutional violations such an event would trigger, not to mention the civil liability issues.

            Keep it real, shall we?

  3. Have they identified the second officer suspended? I’m assuming it was his supervisor telling him to get that blood (for an obvious civil suit CYA).

  4. I mean nurses being pressured to assist police in drawing blood when the cops don’t have warrants and the patients are not consenting.

    But it should perk up the ears of any defense attorney out there who was previously unaware this was happening.

    It’s very telling that she had been working with the university’s police about their lack of upholding the law with regard to other agencies and with SLC police on their antics and getting nowhere, hence the going public. The officials invited this public scrutiny on themselves by trying to shine her on. She’s a nurse, a profession whose relationship with law enforcement the latter should be very interested in not tarnishing. And they had the video for a month but didn’t do squat until forced to when she went public.

  5. “I stood my ground. I stood for what was right, which was to protect the patient,” Wubbels told CNN. “Any nurse, I think, would have done exactly what I did.”

    I commend Nurse Alex Wubbels for her solid ethical standards, and I hope that her efforts to educate and embolden other nurses and hospital employees are largely successful.

    1. It made me think what I would have done. Probably said, “OK officer, arrest me” and put my hands behind my back to be gently handcuffed while telling staff to call the hospital’s counsel and look into the laws against false arrest. But then there would have been no outrageous video to go viral. So maybe the lesson is – if you don’t fear getting beaten or worse – is to make a big scene when being falsely arrested.

      1. Careful, making a scene during the course of a false arrest is resisting arrest, which totally justifies your arrest in the first place.

        1. They have that covered. You’d get slapped with resisting arrest anyway when they shoved you’re arm up so hard that you had to scream in pain while you involuntarily pulled away.

    2. What people are not seeing is the big picture just as you point out you see a nurse and a hospital but it is an American citizen who mostly was protecting her job. The cops were protecting their job and nobody is a hero here. People put nurses on some higher level just as they have done school teachers and even police officers. That is where everything begins to derail. The incident witnessed here happens everyday in America so why is this one different?
      We the People have strayed away from and misunderstood The Constitution. We do not care when those we do not like are abused by government. We demanded abuses and mandatory minimums. We have vilified so many objects we cannot tell right from wrong. We are almost sociopathic in our personal desire to win.
      We are a government of, by and for the People yet we fear government and anyone who says they don’t is lying.
      Do you see it now? We pick and choose and we are wrong. A nation of propagandists and liars.

  6. Nobody heard of this until the nurse and her lawyer released the video. That was more than a month after the incident. Only then was an investigation started, the cop(s) suspended and apologies issued.

    It’s obvious that this was destined to be swept under the rug just like always. Now it’s going to take longer than normal for it to blow over, but eventually the outcome will be the same. No charges, no firings and maybe a settlement, but that’s it.

    1. So far it’s been the typical response: “We can’t comment on an ongoing investigation. The officer is suspended until further notice.” [A few months down the road when things blow over, the suspension will be lifted and no policy changes will be implemented.]

  7. At least the cops didn’t order her to perform a colonoscopy to determine where the suspect had possibly concealed drugs, or insist that the suspect be moved to another, more compliant hospital … like cops in New Mexico did a few years back.

    1. That’s the thing, though. This person wasn’t a suspect. This guy was a bystander who just got hit during the chase. It is SOP to get the blood of everyone at a crime scene regardless of their connection to case? (Well, everyone but the cops, of course…)

  8. Do hospitals have some sort of legal immunity from violating patient consent requirements when there’s a warrant? Or can medical professionals be legally commandeered to do the state’s dirty work (maybe some fine print of licensure, or accepting payment from a fed/state insurance program)? Some combination?

    And not to go all “slippery slope,” but if the state can force a medical professional to violate consent requirements over something as simple as blood draws, what’s to stop the state from forcing docs to participate in executions? Principals/principles, I suppose…sigh.

    1. “”Do hospitals have some sort of legal immunity from violating patient consent requirements when there’s a warrant?””

      HIPAA allows for LEOs to get your information when required by law. There’s a lot that can be done with your medical information that does not require your consent. The HIPAA notice you sign at the Dr’s office is not about you giving consent, it’s about what can be done without your consent.

      Something interesting. In NYS, your doctor does not need your consent to send you medical information to a Regional Health Information Organization (RHIO). But a doctor needs your consent to view your information in a RHIO.

      1. I don’t doubt that what you say is true, but does that extend to actually performing medical procedures? Like the dude who was raped had something shoved up his ass was given a colonoscopy against his will?

        1. Don’t know the answer, but my understanding is that the officer in this situation was actually going to draw the blood himself. He was a police phlebotomist. He was just trying to get access to the patient.

          1. The police shouldn’t have a vampire department. Don’t people have lawyers and a Bill of Rights or somesuch?

    2. Keep in mind, any legislation that has the privacy isn’t about your privacy, it’s about who is newly authorized to skirt your privacy.

    3. There is no consent requirement when there is a warrant. As long as a trained individual performs the blood extraction and there is a warrant, it is legal even if the patient doesn’t consent.

  9. Is it just me or does this story have an exceedingly un-newsworthy, local feel to it?

    Something I can’t quite put my finger on, like it was here and then left, and now I can’t even really remember what it was or if it was even here?

  10. “At Reason we have regularly documented brutal police searches.”

    True. Except for one that was deemed ‘too local’. And funnily enough, it was a cop body slamming a nurse to the ground.

    1. Rufus,

      do you (or anyone else) have links to what, if anything, Shackford and the other writers at H&R offered with regards to the abuse Sloopy’s mother suffered?

      I only recall a commentator’s post attributing a quote to Mangu-Ward.

      1. Unfortunately I do not. I remember seeing a couple at the time it happened when everyone was still hanging around here but nothing since.

        1. Very well. Take care.

  11. I for one can’t wait for all of our hospitals to be run by the government

    1. Because the VA is noted for its first class medical care and prompt service?

  12. My daughter is in a psychiatric facility at the moment. Whenever I visit her I notice the sign on the door that says no weapons are allowed, and no exceptions.

    Does that mean cops won’t get buzzed through unless they put their guns in their cars?

    1. Usually that applies even to cops, except in extreme circimstances. Too dangerous.

      Cops are some of the last people you want hanging around an inpatient psychiatric hospital, anyway. They react poorly to the patients, and a lot of the patients are scared of them.

    2. …the sign on the door that says no weapons are allowed, and no exceptions.

      Does that mean cops won’t get buzzed through unless they put their guns in their cars?

      Humorous, that is.

    3. Jails have that rule as well. Cops, when bringing in a suspect, have them cuffed and leave their gun in their car.

  13. Nothing will happen….The end.

    1. “Dead inside”, at 3:16PM EST on 5 September 2017 wrote Nothing will happen….The end..

      Nicely done.

      I look forward to more from you.

  14. This goon should have been faceplanted. What a fucking asshole.

  15. On the video they say there’s a protocol agreed between the hospital and the cops about this sort of thing. Did the cops here violate an agreement signed by their bosses? If that is the case, wouldn’t that be insubordination? Contempt of cop committed by cops?

  16. Also on the video: The cop lectures the hospital representative that while they – the hospital – are merely concerned about avoiding liability, he (cop) is more pure and is merely concerned about enforcing the law.

  17. RE: Utah Nurse’s Abuse by Police Detective Goes Viral; Does the Outrage Actually Mean Anything?

    The police can do no wrong in our beloved socialist slave state.
    If you start making police accountable for their actions, then how will our oppressors keep us down?
    Did anyone ever think of that?

  18. Trump has allied with another power center: state and local police departments. He has given them fulsome, vocal support, encouragement to be more brutal, rescission of President Obama’s civil asset forfeiture rollback, and promises of more military gear. This is what one would expect of a ruler bent on consolidating his power?secure the praetorians. The Bill of Rights won’t stand in the way of sealing that alliance.


  19. There is a long form of this video I’ve seen discussing by a couple YouTube vloggers that is even worse … the cops discussing that they know this wasn’t right, Payne’s Lieutenant promising to send all the worst patients to this hospital from now on and directing all the “good ones” to other hospitals … the whole nine yards of police arrogance right there caught on tape.

    1. Actually, it was Payne who said that he, in his part time job paramedic, would take the indigents he picked up to this hospital and the good patients elsewhere. The ambulance company he *used to* drive for was made aware of the contents of the video and fired him:

      https://twitter.com/ GoldCrossUtah/ status/905158990316711936 (and you’ll have to remove the spaces to follow the link)

      1. That should say “part time job *as a* paramedic,” – we now return you to your regularly scheduled same old crap.

  20. Mr. Payne had become accustomed to simply flashing a silly piece of costume jewelry in order to gain instant compliance with whatever outrageous demand he was making of a citizen. And when he met someone who wasn’t immediately cowed into submission at the mere display of his little bauble, he lost his swagger. Well if he thought being told “no” by a woman was emasculating, wait till he’s unemployed. That shit’s gonna sting.

    1. He lost more than his swagger. He lost his cool.

      Policing is a tough job, and sometimes you need to act aggressively in order to control a situation or subdue an offender, but this
      was NOT one of those situations. All he had to do is calmly instruct the nurse that he was placing her under arrest and instructed
      her to go outside with him to the police car. She wouldn’t of been happy about it, but she would of done it. Instead, because he
      was irritated at having his authority questioned, he intentionally took her out in the most traumatizing way possible. She was no
      threat, the handcuffs were simply his way of telling her who’s boss.

  21. The outrage by the Mayor and CoP is meaningless….they knew about this incident for a month or more and did nothing.

    I am rather surprised (and not in a good way) about the outrage by the Hospital and the Nurses union…they are just NOW getting involved?

  22. Something I haven’t seen mentioned: in refusing to do the blood draw, Wubbels did Payne and the Salt Lake City PD a favor.

    Let’s pretend that Wubbels had, after an initial protest, gone ahead and drawn some of Gray;s blood. And suppose that blood sample had connected Gray with some crime (e.g., by DNA match). So the DA charges Gray with whatever, and Gray’s lawyer shows up at the Preliminary Hearing. “Motion to Exclude”. And the blood and DNA match are thrown out as “fruit of the poisonous tree.”

    This way, if the SLC PD later manages to get a legal blood sample from Gray, they’ll be able to use it. OTherwise, they would have to prove that either that the later draw was completely uninfluenced by knowledge of the earlier one, or that they would have found out about the connection without ever having done an illegal blood draw “inevitable discovery”.

    I hope the SLC PD sends a note of thansk to Wubbels.

    1. It wasn’t about admissibility in criminal court, it was about the civil case this patient might file against the cops doing the dangerous pursuit that helped cause the accident that put him in the hospital. If he had had drugs/alcohol in his system, the pursuing cops are off the hook. And the assaulting officer was going to do the draw himself, so they would’ve controlled the chain of custody.

  23. This happened in July, so the SLPD has known about this for at least a month and did nothing. Not one damn thing. Funny how viral videos change the conversation. But until those involved in this illegal act are fired, nothing they say or do means a damn thing.

  24. Could’ve been worse. She could’ve been a dog.

  25. Our brave public servants should have realized there are limits to public veneration of them, and a hierarchy of respect granted to those who serve. Most people will look the other way if they abuse low-lifes and criminals, but not if they abuse those above them on the respect scale. It goes sort of like this:

    Emergency room nurses and doctors

  26. Have they identified the second officer suspended? I’m assuming it was his supervisor telling him to get that blood (for an obvious civil suit CYA).

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  27. The outrage by the Mayor and CoP is meaningless….they knew about this incident for a month or more and did nothing.

    I am rather surprised (and not in a good way) about the outrage by the Hospital and the Nurses union…they are just NOW getting involved?
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