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.


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  1. identicon
    Steve, 24 Jan 2018 @ 10:16am

    What is Justice?

    After viewing the footage, it's obvious that Payne's actions were excessive and of poor judgement. But before determinating the consequences he faces in the aftermath, all circumstances and knowledge should be considered. Was there sufficient training provided to the officer by the corporation that employed him? We're the policies and procedures understood and were they correct of law. It seems to be a common practice of some officers to infringe on the people's civil liberties and constitutional rights, is this the training Officer Payne recieved? The amount of attention brought to this incident should be a moot issue, the issue is who should take accountability and what percentage of accountability belongs to all involved. Also, another question that needs answered is, "What punishment is just for the crime, misconduct, neglect, or ignorance that occurred during this incident?"

    The accident the patient was involved in included a fatality. This requires an intensive investigation and attention to the smallest of detail. The patients blood needed to be drawn for this purpose, although Officer Payne went about this with the wrong attitude and used very poor judgement, it appears he was more concerned about the investigation than he was about the people's rights he was violating.

    There is good that can come from this entire incident. It should be used as a learning tool. Even though I believe it was an afterthought of the State DOT, the dividing cement barriers on the Box Elder County side of highway 89 are a good addition. There are some policies and procedures that have been amended, and hopefully officer's will be better trained and educated. The Justice is being served.

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