Police officer who handcuffed Utah nurse Alex Wubbels gets hired at Weber County jail

(Photo courtesy of Karra Porter) A frame grab from video taken from a police body camera and provided by attorney Karra Porter, nurse Alex Wubbels is arrested by a Salt Lake City police officer at University Hospital in Salt Lake City, July 26, 2017. Jeff Payne, the former Salt Lake City police officer who handcuffed Wubbels, has been hired to work at the Weber County jail.

Jeff Payne, the former Salt Lake City police officer who handcuffed nurse Alex Wubbels, has been hired to work at the Weber County jail, a human resources employee confirmed Wednesday.

The county’s human resources office said Payne was hired Aug. 9 to work part time at the jail in a position that does not offer benefits. Sheriff’s officials later confirmed that Payne was hired as a “civilian corrections assistant” to work in the medical unit of the jail.

Neither Payne nor Wubbels’ attorneys could be reached for comment.

This marks the second time in recent weeks that the Weber County Sheriff’s Office has hired a peace officer who was fired from a previous job. The department also hired a former University of Utah detective who was fired after she ignored concerns from student athlete Lauren McCluskey, who later was murdered, and from a 17-year-old girl who said she had been unlawfully detained by a U. student she was dating.

Sheriff’s officials noted that Payne is a certified paramedic and “has extensive background in the medical field.” The department stressed, however, that Payne was not hired to be a law enforcement or corrections officer.

“We acknowledge the concerns raised from the incident at the University of Utah,” the sheriff’s office statement reads. “We stand by our decision to hire Mr. Payne as a civilian employee and wish him success here at the sheriff’s office.”

On July 26, 2017, Wubbels refused to allow Payne to draw blood from an unconscious patient who had been involved in a fiery crash in Cache County earlier in the day.

Wubbels pointed out that the crash victim was not under arrest, that Payne did not have a warrant to draw the blood and that he could not obtain consent from the patient because the man was unconscious.

Payne insisted he had implied consent to get the blood and eventually arrested Wubbels. He handcuffed her and placed her in a police car outside the hospital, then released her after about 20 minutes. Charges were never filed against Wubbels.

Video of Wubbels arrest blew up on the internet and made national news. Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown later fired Payne.

Payne filed papers with the city last fall threatening to sue for $1.5 million associated with lost wages and benefits, emotional distress and defamation of character. He has not filed a lawsuit as of Wednesday.

He says in his notice of claim that Salt Lake City made him the “fall guy” to sidestep the focus of national outrage. He accuses the department of having an out-of-date and inaccurate policy manual, which led to confusion. He said he arrested Wubbels only at the command of his supervisor, then-Lt. James Tracy.

Tracy was demoted to the rank of officer in September 2017 after Brown determined Tracy made the “completely unreasonable” order that Payne make the arrest. The former commander appealed the demotion, saying it amounted to excessive discipline.

Salt Lake City’s Civil Service Commission agreed in April with Brown’s decision to demote Tracy two steps to a “police officer III” position.

The Civil Service Commission is a three-member body that hears appeals from police and fire department employees who believe their discipline was unfair.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) University of Utah Hospital nurse Alex Wubbels, gets ready to testify in support of a bill outlining when police can get blood draws. The bill was the result of the widespread outrage after nurse Wubbels was arrested July 26 by Detective Jeff Payne who was trying to get a blood sample from a patient in her care.

Tracy argued in his appeal that he didn’t order Wubbels’ arrest that day but had told Payne only that “he should consider” handcuffing the nurse.

Tracy also asserted in his appeal that Brown’s letter of discipline did not address the fact that the blood draw policy agreed upon between the hospital and the police department was never made known to Tracy — or any officer his level or below.

Payne is still appealing his firing. His hearing was supposed to be in July, but it was canceled and will be rescheduled.

In the appeal, Payne argues his firing was improper due to a “lack of prior disciplinary history” and “circumstances of the events leading up to the disciplinary decision.”

His disciplinary history includes a reprimand for sexually harassing another department employee “over an extended period of time” several years ago and a 1995 violation of department policies tied to a vehicle pursuit.

Payne told FOX 13 last November that he didn’t think he did anything wrong and he has nothing for which to apologize. When he was asked whether he felt the Wubbels arrest was too forceful, Payne said he was just following his training, by using force one step higher than the person you are arresting. He believed the nurse was resisting arrest as she backed away, so he had to grab her.

“She kept struggling with me,” he said. “So I had to use that little bit of force to get her out the door and get this situation under control.”

In the interview, Payne also criticized Salt Lake City’s police chief, who he argues vilified him instead of defending him as public fervor grew.

But he said he holds no ill will toward Wubbels.

“She was doing her job,” he said. “I was doing my job. And, unfortunately, it conflicted. And I am the one who bears most of the burden for it.”

Wubbels reached a $500,000 settlement in late 2017 with the U. and Salt Lake City. The nurse said at the time that she would use a portion of the money to help people get body camera footage, at no cost, of incidents involving themselves.

Utah requires jail or prison guards, typically referred to as corrections officers, to have specialized training. Since Payne is working in a civilian position, he does not need that training.

As for former U. Detective Kayla Dallof, she opened a case after McCluskey reported she was being extorted by a man she briefly dated, but did little else before taking her planned days off without alerting anyone to McCluskey’s fears.

Before Dallof returned to work, McCluskey had been killed.

The detective was not disciplined for the McCluskey case but was warned not to handle such cases with the same indifference. A termination notice says she was fired months later for similarly ignoring a death threat against a 17-year-old girl who had been trying to break up with a U. student.

Weber County hired Dallof over the summer, saying in a statement that it had thoroughly checked her background and stands by its decision.

“She has excelled here,” the statement reads. “And we look forward to seeing her continue her success in her career here.”