The police officer who arrested a University Hospital nurse during a July 26 dispute over getting blood from a patient should immediately have been placed on administrative leave, according to Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski.
Instead, Salt Lake City police Detective Jeff Payne was allowed to stay on the job until Sept. 1, a day after the nurse’s attorney publicly released police body camera footage of the arrest. Another officer — believed to be Payne’s watch commander, Lt. James Tracy — was placed on leave the same day.
“There is no acceptable reason” that Payne and the other officer were not immediately put on leave, Biskupski said in a list of frequently asked questions she presented to City Council members Tuesday night. She said the Police Department‘s decision to delay the move was “regrettable.”
Meanwhile, more details emerged Wednesday about the blood draw request, which came from Logan police. The department had asked Salt Lake City police to get blood from an unconscious car crash victim who was being treated in the University Hospital.
Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen told CNN on Wednesday that Payne had called a Logan detective to say that he was having a tough time getting the blood. According to Jensen, the detective told Payne not to worry about it, because Logan could get the blood through other means.
“He didn’t tell him you must cease and desist; he simply said, ‘Don’t worry about it, we’ll go another way,’” Jensen said in the CNN interview. “I just don’t believe [Payne’s] actions were in the best interest of the patient, the nurses or law enforcement, quite frankly. He could have just packed up and gone home.”
In her FAQ, Biskupski noted that Payne was immediately removed from the department’s blood draw program, in which police officers obtain blood samples from drivers in suspected DUI and fatal car crashes.
The department, meanwhile, has defended not placing Payne on leave immediately after the encounter. Police spokeswoman Christina Judd said over the weekend that the department does not have a rule mandating that an officer be placed on leave when an internal investigation begins. “It‘s a case-by-case basis,” she said.
Administrative leave is mandatory, she said, when a criminal probe begins, which occurred Friday.
Judd added that officials believed Payne’s ”interactions with the public” had been adequately diminished when he was taken off the blood draw team after the encounter with Wubbels. Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown also previously said at a news conference that Payne would not have ”access” to get himself into a similar situation if he wasn’t on the blood draw team.
In her list of FAQs, the mayor said that she and SLCPD Chief Mike Brown first saw the video on Aug. 31, along with the rest of the public.
She said police command staff reviewed the video within 24 hours, but not Brown, who is “typically separated from the evidence of an internal affairs investigation until it is complete due to his role as the final arbiter in employment action.”
Biskupski said the Police Department’s internal affairs investigation began within 24 hours.
Once Biskupski saw the video, she reached out to the nurse, Alex Wubbels, to apologize.
The mayor said she directed her staff to reach out to Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill about starting a criminal investigation, which Gill has said is underway. Biskupski wrote that, in addition to the internal affairs and district attorney’s office investigations, the city’s independent civilian review board is looking into the episode.
The mayor said the two police officers have not been fired because their jobs cannot be taken away without due process.
The city’s contract with the Salt Lake Police Association, a union that represents officers, including Payne, “provides additional procedural protections and processes that must be followed before any adverse employment action can be taken,” Biskupski wrote.
The last of the FAQs listed by Biskupski is: “What is happening now?”
“At the mayor’s directions, the city is continuing to work with stakeholders to ensure this never happens again,” she wrote. “This includes changing internal practices and reporting procedures, which kept the mayor from becoming immediately involved.”
At the request of Logan police, Payne arrived at the hospital to get a blood sample from 43-year-old William Gray, who had been involved in a fiery collision the same day in northern Utah.
Logan police Capt. Tyson Budge has told The Tribune that an investigator of the crash called Salt Lake City police and requested the department get a blood draw on Gray. Budge said such a request is routine, especially involving serious injury or fatal accidents, despite the fact that Gray was not a suspect in the crash.
Wubbels tells Payne in the footage that according to hospital policies, blood cannot be taken by police from a patient unless the patient gives consent, is under arrest, or is under warrant for arrest.
Jensen told CNN on Wednesday that Logan police did not pursue a warrant because they didn’t realize Gray was unconscious and would not be able to consent.
Jensen also told CNN that he wasn’t sure why Payne was so frustrated, saying ”it’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, but I can’t come up with a play that includes what happened.”
Gray is a full-time truck driver who also serves as a reserve police officer in the Rigby, Idaho, Police Department.
In a news release, Rigby Police Chief Sam Tower thanked Wubbels and other University Hospital staffers “for standing firm, and protecting Officer Gray’s rights as a patient and victim. Protecting the rights of others is truly a heroic act.”
Tower added: “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.”
Initially in critical condition, Gary’s status at University Hospital was recently upgraded to serious.
A fundraising page has been set up to raise funds to help Gray and his family.
— Tribune reporter Pamela Manson contributed to this story.