Salt Lake City police officer fired over controversial arrest of nurse

A Utah police officer has been fired after he was caught on camera in July forcibly arresting a nurse who refused to let him draw blood from an unconscious patient.

CNN reported that Detective Jeff Payne was terminated. According to Payne’s lawyer, Greg Skorda, his client was notified of the department’s decision in a letter from Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown.

Payne’s superior, Lieutenant James Tracy, was demoted to the rank of officer.

According to CBS News, the termination letter obtained by the Associated Press detailed the findings of the Internal Affairs investigation into Payne’s conduct toward Alex Wubbels, a burn nurse at the University of Utah Hospital.

On July 26, police officers asked Wubbels to draw a blood sample from unconscious crash victim Bill Gray, a truck driver who was also a part-time reserve officer of the Rigby, Idaho police force. Wubbels refused the order, citing hospital policy that blood can only be drawn with either patient’s consent, a judge’s order, or if the patient was under arrest. None of the criteria was met in this case.

After Wubbels showed police officers a handout detailing the hospital policy and called a supervisor who backed her decision, Payne used force while handcuffing and dragging her out to a police vehicle, where she was detained for approximately 20 minutes before being released without charges.

Video footage of the tense encounter, in which Wubbels can be heard screaming “I’ve done nothing wrong! I’ve done nothing wrong! Why is this happening? This is crazy,” spread online and ignited widespread condemnation of the perceived use of excessive force.

Brown stated in the disciplinary letter addressed to Payne, “You demonstrated extremely poor professional judgment (especially for an officer with 27 years of experience), which calls into question your ability to effectively serve the public and the department.”

Brown also cited the “significant disrepute” brought on the department by Payne’s “inappropriate, unreasonable, unwarranted, discourteous, disrespectful” conduct.

According to CNN, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski praised the termination, stating that “the decision … is in keeping with the high level of accountability we owe the people of Salt Lake City. In making his decision, I am confident Chief Brown balanced the unique stresses each of our police officers deal with daily, and the responsibility they have as leaders in our community.”

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Payne had faced prior disciplinary issues, including allegations of sexual harassment of a co-worker. In September, he was also fired from his part-time job as an ambulance driver after an investigation into his conduct during Wubbel’s arrest.

[Featured image: Today show/screenshot]