“I just feel betrayed, I feel angry,” Alex Wubbels said after she was handcuffed at work and pulled into a police car for doing her job.
Wubbels shift started like any other at University Hospital’s burn unit in Salt Lack City, Utah. While working as a charge nurse, Wubbels was approached by Salt Lake police detective Jeff Payne who asked her for a few vials of blood needed for an investigation. Following proper procedure, Wubbels asked Payne for a warrant. The detective failed to produce a warrant and did not meet any of the “mandatory criteria” required to receive a blood sample without the patient’s consent. When Wubbels refused to hand over the samples, detective Payne placed her in handcuffs and dragged the now weeping nurse to his police car.
“This is crazy. This is crazy. Why is he so angry?” Wubbels can be heard saying in the body camera video. “Stop! I’ve done nothing wrong,” she cried out, nearly in tears. “This is unnecessary.”
According to WMUR 9, the incident began after a truck driver was struck head-on by a vehicle that was fleeing from Cache County police on July 26,2017. The fleeing suspect crossed into oncoming traffic, struck the truck, and was killed. The truck driver suffered severe burns and arrived at the hospital in a sedated comatose state.
Detective Payne was later sent to the hospital to collect vials of blood taken from the comatose truck driver. In a comatose state, the patient could not give consent to police for having his blood drawn. Being the victim, not a suspect of a crime, the patient’s rights would have been violated had the officers taken his blood without a warrant. “If they needed blood, then they needed to go through to proper channels to take it,” Wubbels told WMUR.
Body camera footage shows Wubbels speaking to her supervisor on the phone to confirm the hospital policy. She soon explains the situation to Payne, who grows impatient over the delay. “I’m doing what I’m being told by my boss, and I’m going to do what my boss says,” Payne says with frustration after Wubbels refuses to draw blood from the victim. Wubbels then prints out a copy of the policy for blood draws, which the Salt Lake Police Department had agreed to more than a year ago, and shows it to Payne. The policy removed the process known as “implied consent,” making it illegal for officers to take anything from a patient without a warrant or direct consent.
Payne threatens to arrest Wubbels if she refuses to comply with his request. Unable to convince the detective herself, Wubbels puts her supervisor on speakerphone. “Sir, you’re making a huge mistake right now,” the supervisor tells Payne moments before Wubbels’ arrest.
Fed up with the delay, Payne handcuffs Wubbels in front of nearly a dozen hospital workers. When the shocked witnesses ask why Wubbels is being arrested Payne tells them she was “interfering with a criminal investigation.”
Wubbels was pushed into a police cruiser where she sat for approximately 20 minutes. The shocked nurse was eventually released without charges and embraced by several hospital employees.
“I feel a lot of things,” Wubbels said after it was all over. “And I am still confused. I’m a health care worker. The only job I have is to keep my patients safe. A blood draw, it just gets thrown around there like it’s some simple thing. But blood is your blood. That’s your property. And when a patient comes in in a critical state, that blood is extremely important and I don’t take it lightly,” she said.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown later watched the video and called it “very alarming.” When asked what she thinks should happen to Detective Payne, Wubbels simply said “I think he needs some serious training.” Sergeant Brandon Shear admits that the police department’s blood-draw policy “hadn’t been updated for a little bit” and that officers hadn’t been properly trained.
Wubbels has not yet filed any civil charges against the officer who arrested her without cause. “I think right now, I believe in the goodness of society. I want to see people do the right thing first and I want to see this be a civil discourse. And if that’s not something that’s going to happen and there is refusal to acknowledge the need for growth and the need for re-education, then we will likely be forced to take that type of step. But people need to know that this is out there,” she said.