Utah Nurse: the Rest of the Story… Part I

Last week, a story broke about a nurse at a hospital in Utah who was assaulted and arrested by a Salt Lake City Detective when she refused to allow him to draw blood from an unconscious patient. The officer, Detective Jeff Payne, did not have probable cause to draw blood, admitted he did not have probable cause, did not have a warrant authorizing him to draw blood, and the patient was not under arrest.

Here is the full video if you haven’t seen it yet (the action starts at around 5:00):

There is near consensus on social media, blogs, and in the comments that this was horrible, the officer was wrong, and he should be fired. This story has continued to develop since it was first reported, however, and the deeper you dig the worse it gets.

Details That You May Have Missed

In the original video that was released and in subsequent reporting, there are details that were not immediately obvious:

  • We can infer that this is not the first time this hospital has had trouble with the police department, because the Hospital and the police department at some point entered into an agreement that they would only attempt to draw blood from patients if: 1) The patient is under arrest; 2) The officer has a warrant; or 3) The patient consents. This is actually what the law says, which makes you wonder what happened previously that prompted them to require the police department to put it in a written agreement? The nurse is reading from this agreement as she speaks to the officer before the officer flips out.
  • The nurse is not an inexperienced newby. She is the head of the University of Utah Hospital’s Burn Unit.
  • She was also a two-time Olympian.
  • The nurse’s supervisor was on speakerphone also explaining to the officer why he could not draw blood from the patient. When her supervisor suggests that the officer should not be threatening the nurse is the moment that the officer flips out.
  • After the assault and arrest, the officer keeps talking on his bodycam. He suggests to another officer that, in the future, he will only bring transients to the hospital who can’t pay their bills.
  • He can also be heard conspiring with another officer about how they can get around the warrant requirement in the future and what they should have done differently this time. Not to avoid assaulting a nurse, but to get an illegal blood sample without a judicial warrant.
  • Since the incident, the Utah Hospital “has imposed new restrictions on law enforcement, including barring officers from patient-care areas and from direct contact with nurses.” Can we agree that something is wrong when a hospital has to bar officers from direct contact with nurses to protect hospital staff and patients from the police?
  • Payne was fired from his second job as a paramedic after the video was released. He was not fired from his law enforcement job but was placed on paid administrative leave from the police force. Neither of these things happened until the video released. The incident happened on July 26, the video was not released until a month after the incident. The police force and the ambulance company that Payne worked for knew about the incident. The police department’s only action was to move Payne to a different job so that he did not have contact with the hospital. Neither the Salt Lake City Police nor the ambulance company took any real action against the officer until the video was released and went viral.
  • The officer is still employed by the Salt Lake Police, is still drawing a paycheck, and has not been charged with any crimes over a month after the assault.
  • The patient was a police officer from another jurisdiction who was working his second job as a truck driver at the time of the accident…
  • The Salt Lake City District Attorney and the FBI have announced that they are investigating the incident. More than a month after the incident and no arrest, but they are investigating. If only there was a video to make their job easier….

Why was the officer trying to draw blood from a bystander victim of a police chase? Why did the police department and ambulance company fail to react before the video of the assault went viral?

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