Fired Cop's Attorney Argues His Client Is Being Punished Unfairly Because The Public Got To See His Misconduct

from the but-for-self-inflicted-video dept

A little over a month ago, body cam footage of a police officer trying to bully a nurse into breaking the law went viral. Salt Lake City police detective Jeff Payne wrapped up his failed intimidation attempt by arresting nurse Alex Wubbels for following her hospital's policy on blood draws. If there are no exigent circumstances and the person not suspected of criminal activity, police need a warrant to draw blood.

None of those factors were present when Detective Payne demanded the hospital draw blood from an accident victim. The victim was, in fact, a reserve police officer from an Idaho law enforcement agency, who had been hit head-on by a fleeing suspect. This officer later died from his injuries. He was in a coma when Detective Payne began demanding the hospital hand over some blood, obviously in no condition to consent to the search.

The entire bodycam video of the incident can be seen below.

Payne argued, after being fired for violating department blood draw policies (and for violating a Supreme Court decision, but Payne isn't expected to know the laws directly affecting his position on the PD's blood draw team), he arrested Wubbels because he "didn't want to create a scene" in the emergency room. If he hadn't arrested her, or demanded she violate both the law and hospital policy, there would have been no scene to be concerned about.

Instead, Payne thought he could intimidate his way through this. Now he's out of a job and attempting to sue his way back in. (Side note: Payne also lost his moonlighting gig as a paramedic as the body cam footage also caught him saying he would start routing "good patients" to another hospital and bring Wubbels' ER "transients.")

His lawyer is making a hell of an argument: Payne was unfairly fired because the public saw him violating department policies.

Attorney Greg Skordas, who represents Payne, said his client plans to appeal a firing he considers unfair and over the top. Skordas said Payne would still be employed if the body camera footage hadn't generated so much attention and blown the events out of proportion.

There are (at least) two ridiculous implications contained in this statement.

First is the implication that the only "proper "investigation is one that clears the officer of wrongdoing and/or results in the most minimal of discipline. The second follows the first: Skordas is basically affirming law enforcement agencies rarely hand out proportionate discipline unless forced to by public outcry. Neither are good looks for Skordas, his client, or his former employer.

The internal investigation reached the same conclusions anyone would have after viewing the body camera footage: both Payne and his supervisor, Lt. James Tracy, acted in bad faith during the incident, using both intimidation and a profound -- perhaps even deliberate -- misconstruing of applicable laws in hopes of taking blood from an accident victim (and fellow police officer).

Beneath Skordas' argument is another ugly assertion: his client feels he's being unfairly treated because a police camera captured him behaving exactly the way he behaved when he arrested a nurse for following hospital policy and a Supreme Court decision. Detective Payne deprived someone of their liberty -- albeit briefly -- for daring to stand up for the rights of her patient. That's about as ugly as it gets.

Filed Under: alex wubbels, blood draws, jeff payne, salt lake city, wrongful termination

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2017 @ 12:50pm

    Re: So why wasn't Lt. James Tracy fired too?

    At about 15:50 in the body cam video, Salt Lake City Police (former-) Lieutenant James Tracy tells hospital staff—

    There’s a very bad habit up here of your policy interfering with my law.

    But earlier in the video, just before 5:50, Alex Wubbels attempts to explain the blood draw policy to (former-) Detective Jeff Payne—

    This was something that you guys agreed to with this hospital.

    A Sep 5, 2017 Deseret News story, “Detective in nurse arrest video fired from job at Gold Cross”, by Pat Reavy, highlights this disagreement:

    The policies

    [E]ven though both sides had agreed to the policy, Salt Lake police detective Greg Wilking said it hadn't been officially changed within the police department's written internal policy.

    "The policy that was in place was a policy that was being looked at, and we had begun conversations with the U.," he said Tuesday [Sep 5, 2017]. "Our policy itself had not officially changed.

    "Why wasn’t it implemented at the same time that agreement was reached? That’s a big chunk of this investigation. . . . "

    Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski's “FAQ on July 26th Police Incident at the University of Utah Medical Center” (undated):

    Within 24 hours of the July 26th incident . . . Days later, SLCPD’s blood draw policy was under review and an updated policy took effect on August 25th.

    But going back to Pat Reavy's Deseret News story—

    Neither Porter nor Salt Lake police knew when the agreement was made. But former Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank said Tuesday [Sep 5, 2017] that the policy of only drawing blood if an officer has a warrant, consent, or suspects the individual was impaired, was the policy when he was chief. Burbank declined to make any other comments regarding the incident.

    Former Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank left the department in June 2015 — over two years ago.

    How much of the July 26, 2017 incident was driven by (former-) Lieutenant James Tracy's insistence on his own policy — his own “law” ?

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