A nurse was cuffed for refusing to give a patient’s blood to cops, and a body camera caught the entire ordeal
Ah, the police body camera. It’s brought us such disturbing hits as a Baltimore cop appearing to plant drugs on someone, an officer telling a recently shot man “fuck your breath” as he cried out for help, and the foot chase and death of a Chicago teenager.
Well, thanks to one Salt Lake City police officer, we have another lowlight to add to the list: The forcible handcuffing and dragging of a nurse for refusing to hand over an unconscious patient’s blood.
Yeah, it’s as ugly as it sounds.
Video of the incident, which The Salt Lake Tribune reports went down at the University of Utah Hospital, shows nurse Alex Wubbels calmly explaining to an officer that she cannot hand over blood samples belonging to a truck driver injured in a July 26 collision.
Because, you know, the request was likely unconstitutional.
That’s because, according to Wubbles, the officer did not have a warrant, the injured man was not under arrest, and he was unconscious and therefore unable to give consent. This totally reasonable argument didn’t go over well with Detective Jeff Payne.
“I either go away with blood in vials or body in tow,” Payne reportedly exclaimed. He chose the body in tow, despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that warrantless blood tests are not permitted in drunken-driving cases. Notably, the victim in this case was not suspected of being under the influence. Rather, the person that crashed into him was allegedly fleeing the police at the time of the wreck.
“Help! Help,” Wubbles can be heard screaming as a University of Utah police officer stood by watching the incident. “Somebody help me! Stop! Stop! I did nothing wrong!”
And she appears to have not, in fact, done anything wrong — a reality the Salt Lake City mayor copped to in a lengthy statement issued on September 1.
“Like many of you, I watched the video of police officers interacting with University of Utah Medical Center nurse Alex Wubbles for the first time through the media late yesterday,” Mayor Jackie Biskupski said in the statement. “What I saw yesterday 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. Wubbles for what she has been through for simply doing her job.”
Salk Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown echoed those sentiments, writing that the department had suspended Payne from the blood draw program (implying that he is still on active duty elsewhere), and that “I was alarmed by what I saw in the video with our officers and Ms. Wubbles.”
Which, yeah, the video is alarming. What is also alarming is the likelihood that we’re only hearing about this because of the body camera footage. Had such video not existed, it’s hard to imagine this making national news — or even getting picked up locally, for that matter.
That is not to say that police body cams are always a universal good. As the American Civil Liberties Union’s 2017 police body camera recommendations make clear, with officer-mounter cameras come the potential for privacy violations. What’s more, uneven implementation of department policy can mean videos are mysteriously absent in important cases. However, with 77 percent of US law enforcement agencies planning on getting (or already having) body cameras according to a 2015 Major Cities Chiefs and Major County Sheriffs survey, the national debate about this will continue.
As it should. That being said, body cameras can potentially shine light on moments police might otherwise prefer to keep in the dark. For that, we should be grateful.
As for Ms. Wubbles, though, she’s not feeling so grateful right now.
“It hurts to relive it,” the Tribune reports Wubbles as saying after watching the video. However, that doesn’t mean she wants this ordeal to be forgotten about.
“I can’t sit on this video and not attempt to speak out both to re-educate and inform,” she told the paper. The police “need to be having conversations about what is appropriate intervention.”
Just like we should be having a conversation about police body cameras — the bad, and the good.