Salt Lake City mayor, police chief respond to “unacceptable” nurse arrest video

Posted at 12:51 PM, Sep 01, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY - Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Police Chief Mike Brown held a news conference Friday to express concern and outrage over video showing police arresting a nurse at the University of Utah hospital.

“Like many of you, I watched the video of police officers interacting with University of Utah Medical Center nurse Alex Wubbels for the first time through the media late yesterday," Mayor Biskupski said in a statement. "What I saw is completely unacceptable to the values of my Administration and of the values of the Salt Lake City Police Department. I extend a personal apology to Ms. Wubbels for what she has been through for simply doing her job."

Biskupski said an Internal Affairs investigation is examining the actions of Detective Jeff Payne.

Chief Brown urged citizens to, "trust in the process" as well as in the Salt Lake City Police Department.

"It is my sincere desire to get back to a very cooperative, respectful, and friendly relationship with our 'brothers and sisters in white' we work so closely with," Brown said. "Salt Lake City Police Officers have a very soft spot in our hearts for all medical professionals. We know that if we are ever hurt in the line of duty, it is their caring hands that will perhaps save our lives one day."

Chief Brown said within 12 hours of release body cam footage was reviewed and the internal affairs investigation started.

Within 24 hours of this incident, he said, the Salt Lake City Police Department took steps to ensure this will never happen again.

"To date, we have suspended the officer from the blood draw program. We have already replaced our blood draw policy with a new policy. All remaining officers on the blood draw program have reviewed, and are operating under the new policy and protocol," said Brown.

Wubbels issued a statement Friday after receiving personal calls from both Biskupski and Brown.

Gov. Gary Herbert (R-Utah) also weighed in on the incident Friday.

"I take these incidences very seriously," Biskupski said. "Since I took office, I have been working with Salt Lake City Police Department to increase our use of de-escalation techniques and we have had great success, and this incident is a troubling set back to those efforts."

"No medical professional in Salt Lake City should be hindered from performing their duties, and certainly not be fearful of the police officers they so often partner with to save lives.”

Following the incident, Salt Lake City Police commanders met with University of Utah hospital administration. Chief Brown said they immediately changed policies that may have been a factor in this encounter, and the officer’s duties have been modified.

"I believe we can learn from mistakes and from building strong relationships with everyone we work with and serve. By doing that we become a stronger police department," said Brown.

The truck driver at the center of the incident is a reserve officer with the Rigby Police Department in Idaho. Friday, the department issued a statement thanking Wubbels and other staff members for "standing firm, and protecting Officer Gray's rights as a patient and victim. Protecting the rights of others is a truly heroic act."

The statement also notes that Gray was a victim and at no time has he been under any suspicion of wrongdoing.

Utah Rep. Chris Stewart, A Republican representing Utah's Second District, weighed in on the video via Twitter Friday night, saying the footage was "incredibly disturbing."

His remarks came over several tweets and are reproduced below:

"I know our police have a very difficult job. But just watched the video of arrest of nurse Wubbels by Officer Payne. Incredibly disturbing. I can't imagine Payne ever interacting with the public again. He has lost our trust. And why did it take a month for administrative action? If any police or civilian leaders were aware of this video and took no action they need to explain why? The public trust is too fragile. There are too many dedicated police officers in Salt Lake City to be tainted by this episode. Accountability is key to maintaining trust."

Logan City Police issued a statement Friday as well, saying that they sent an accident reconstruction investigators to the scene of the crash on July 26 at the request of Utah Highway Patrol. They stated that Salt Lake City PD was asked to obtain a blood draw from one of the drivers, which they say is "standard operating procedure involved in fatal traffic accidents."

The department states they had "no involvement" with the pursuit or the incident at the hospital, and that all questions should be directed to the Salt Lake City Police Department and University of Utah Hospital.

The Utah Nurses Association also responded Friday, saying in part they are "deeply disturbed by the incident."

"Nurses are the most trusted professionals in the US year after year, in part because nurses take seriously our ethical duty to act in the best interest of our patients at all times and in all settings.

The Utah Nurses Association supports the right of nurses to practice in accordance with the ethical foundations of our profession, without interference.

Nurses, like all health care professionals, deserve to work in settings free from violence, fear, and intimidation. We look forward to working with local and state officials to ensure that nurses are respected and safe in all practice settings."