SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake police detective whose arrest of a University Hospital nurse sparked a worldwide outcry was fired Tuesday from his part-time position as a Gold Cross Ambulance paramedic.
Gold Cross officials said Jeff Payne's termination was effective immediately.
"Although Jeff was not working for Gold Cross Ambulance at the time of the incident, we take his inappropriate remarks regarding patient transports seriously," the company said in a statement.
As the arrest incident was wrapping up, Payne's body camera video recorded him telling Salt Lake Police Lt. James Tracy, "I’ll bring 'em all the transients and take the good patients elsewhere," referring to who he transports to University Hospital.
"We acknowledge those concerned individuals who have contacted us regarding this incident and affirm our commitment to serving all members of the community with kindness and respect," the Gold Cross statement said. "We will continue to maintain our values of outstanding patient focused care, safety and the complete trust of the communities we serve."
Payne was put on paid administrative leave from the Salt Lake Police Department Friday for his role in the arrest of nurse Alex Wubbels on July 26.
Although the incident happened more than a month ago, it wasn't until Wubbels and her attorney, Karra Porter, released body camera video of her arrest on Thursday that he and Tracy were placed on paid administrative leave. Within hours of its release, the video of Wubbels screaming as she's being dragged out of the hospital, held against a wall as she's being handcuffed and then placed into a police car went viral and the incident quickly garnered attention — and anger — worldwide.
Payne said he was following orders from Tracy when he told Wubbels that he would arrest her for interfering with a police investigation if she did not show him where a patient was so he could draw blood from him.
Multiple investigations surrounding the incident continued Tuesday, with many questions centered on what policies were being followed at time, when those policies were enacted, and whether the idea of "implied consent" applied in this case.
On July 26, Bill Gray was severely injured in a fiery crash in Cache County when his vehicle was hit head-on by a man who was fleeing from police. The man who was fleeing was killed.
Because Gray was unconscious and could not give consent, because he was not under investigation for criminal wrongdoing or suspicion of impaired driving, and because Payne did not have a search warrant, Wubbels — the charge nurse — told Payne he could not draw blood.
Right before she is arrested, Wubbels is seen on the video handing Payne a printed copy of the rules for a police blood draw, highlighting those three points. She tells him that the rules were previously agreed upon by the hospital and Salt Lake police.
According to Porter, the rules are based on a combination of state law, federal law and hospital policy.
But even though both sides had agreed to the policy, Salt Lake police detective Greg Wilking said it hadn't been officially changed within the police department's written internal policy.
"The policy that was in place was a policy that was being looked at, and we had begun conversations with the U.,” he said Tuesday. "Our policy itself had not officially changed.
"Why wasn’t it implemented at the same time that agreement was reached? That’s a big chunk of this investigation. Where is that misunderstanding and disconnect? Why did that happen?"
Neither Porter nor Salt Lake police knew when the agreement was made. But former Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank said Tuesday that the policy of only drawing blood if an officer has a warrant, consent, or suspects the individual was impaired, was the policy when he was chief. Burbank declined to make any other comments regarding the incident.
Since Wubbels’s arrest, the police department has officially changed its internal policy on blood draws.
In the body camera recordings, Payne tells Wubbels that he is allowed to take blood because of “implied consent.” That means any individual who obtains a driver’s license has consented to a blood draw.
But all sides agree that the law on implied consent is complicated.
Porter says Utah did away with implied consent many years ago in the Utah Supreme Court case of the State vs. Rodriquez. More recently, implied consent was outlawed in the U.S. Supreme Court opinion of Birchfield vs. North Dakota.
Wilking said, however, the department is faced with the ongoing issue of adjusting its own policies based on state law and case law. Implied consent is still "on the books" in Utah, he said, and was only determined to be unconstitutional in criminal matters, not civil matters.
After Wubbels was arrested and placed in a patrol car, Tracy — the watch commander or supervisor of the department's officers during that shift — arrived at the scene. He can be heard in the video telling Wubbels and other hospital staff members several times that they are wrong.
"If we’re breaking the law, if we’re doing wrong, there are civil remedies," he tells Wubbels. "If we took this blood illegally, it all goes away. There are civil remedies if we make a mistake. What I’m telling you is we are not making a mistake. I’ve been doing this for 22-plus years. I know what the laws are for search and seizure."
"I was telling you that you need a warrant," Wubbels replies.
"And I’m telling you no," he tells her.
At one point, Tracy tells other hospital staff members: ""There’s a very bad habit up here of your policy interfering with my law."
Former federal judge and current University of Utah law professor Paul Cassell said while it's true that implied consent laws have been determined to be unconstitutional only if criminal penalties are attached, in Wubbels' case, the implied consent law does not apply.
"I think ultimately at the end of the day, the police acted unreasonably here. There wasn’t any reason to throw a nurse into handcuffs and put her in a squad car when what was going on was a good faith discussion about the law. And interestingly enough, the nurse turned out to be more legally correct than the Salt Lake Police Department. There are reasonable ways of handling this, and handcuffing a nurse is not one of them,” he said.
Numerous hospital supervisors were consulted by Wubbels before she was arrested, all of whom gave her the same answer.
"Why are you blaming the messenger?" a supervisor on the phone asks Payne at one point in the video.
"She’s the one who has told me no," he replies.
"Yeah, but sir, you are making a huge mistake right now. Like, you’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse," the supervisor tells them.
At that point, Payne appears angry and attempts to grab Wubbels.
"OK, we’re done. We’re done. You’re under arrest. You’re going," he says.
"Please, sir, you’re hurting me," Wubbels cries out as she is pushed out the door.
"Then walk," Payne tells her sternly.
"No, I have no reason to walk. Stop hurting me. I can’t believe this."
Later in the video, Tracy is handed a cellphone with one of the hospital's executives on the phone and can be heard saying, "I have implied consent by Utah law. Yes I do.
"I don’t need you to make a phone call to tell me what authority I have, because I know what authority I have. We have found a work-around so that we don’t have to try to get through the huge amounts of road blocks your organization has put in front of us, to get what is lawfully ours to have,” he continues.
In his written report of the incident, Tracy noted that he had several conversations with hospital administrators, "The last one was with the CEO. None of these conversations were productive in my opinion."
But Tracy then tells Payne in a private conversation recorded on Payne's body camera: "I don’t think this arrest is going to stick.”
The lieutenant tells Payne they will let Wubbels go, but tell her that her case will be screened for possible criminal charges. No charges were ever filed.
Before releasing Wubbels, Tracy apparently learned that nurses drew blood from Gray when he was first admitted and police could obtain a warrant from a judge for some of that blood.
"I didn’t know that was standard practice, they’ll draw blood and test it right off the bat. Had I known that, it would have been a lot easier," he is heard saying on the recording.
On Tuesday, Wilking said the police department is arranging meetings with health care and nursing groups across the state to make sure they are on the same page with every hospital and health care organization in terms of policies and procedures.
Monday, U. officials announced a new protocol that requires police officers to handle such requests with hospital supervisors rather than nurses or other staff members, and to do it in areas away from patient areas.
Dale Brophy, chief of the U.'s Department of Public Safety, said Monday that none of his officers have been disciplined or placed on leave despite not intervening on the nurse's behalf at the scene as she'd requested.
Before Wubbels was released, an officer — believed to be from U. — approached Tracy and offered to take the Salt Lake officers to the burn unit and help them look for Gray until they found the patient.
While the internal investigation into the actions of the two officers is ongoing, the Unified Police Department is also conducting an external investigation to be submitted to the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office for potential criminal charges.