At a press conference on Thursday night, the Salt Lake City Police Department announced that it has opened a full investigation into Alex Wubbels, a nurse at the University Of Utah Hospital, who was arrested on July 26. This incident has sparked a controversy because the nurse was simply doing her job.

The need for the blood sample

A truck driver was sent to the University of Utah Hospital in critical condition following an accident with a pickup truck. The pickup driver, who was a suspect in a different case, was speeding away from a police chase when it collided with the truck driver. The driver of the pickup died instantly.

The truck driver suffered burns and went into a coma. Although the pickup driver was the suspect for the crimes in the initial case, the police wanted to receive a blood sample from the truck driver to determine whether he was under the influence of any illicit substances.

Altercation at the hospital

Upon arriving at the hospital, Detective Jeff Payne from the Salt Lake City Police Department asked Wubbels, who was a nurse that cared for the truck driver, to provide him with a vial of the truck driver's blood. Wubbels informed Payne that she could not provide driver's blood as the patient was unable to provide consent. There was no warrant for the patient's arrest, and the patient was not a suspect in the investigation. When a fellow officer asked Payne why he couldn't obtain a warrant for the blood, Payne stated that there was no probable cause as the truck driver was not a suspect.

When Payne insisted that he needed to have the blood sample, Wubbels contacted her supervisors, who instructed Wubbels not to provide the patient's blood.

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After roughly ten of Wubbels' supervisors forbade her from handing over the truck driver's blood to the police, Payne gave his fellow officers orders to arrest Wubbels. Wubbels, who expressed shock during the incident, cried for help as she was shoved out of the hospital and into the passenger seat of an unmarked police car. Later on, fellow hospital employees were seen asking the police why Wubbels was arrested for "doing her job." Police responded by saying they also were "doing their job."

The entire ordeal was captured on police body cameras.

Reasonable request?

Although Payne insisted that Wubbels' actions interfered with a criminal investigation, by complying with Payne's orders, she would be violating a major policy held in many hospitals. This would likely constitute a serious fireable offense, making it difficult for her to find work in the medical field in the future. Since the Supreme Court determined in 2016 that it was unconstitutional to take blood samples from patients without a warrant, Wubbels could not provide the blood without both violating the hospital's policy and being complicit in an illegal police search. Wubbels was given no legal alternative other than to refuse Payne's order.

The police used force to detain Wubbels, who did not display any signs of violence during the ordeal. Although this could have escalated into a deadly police brutality case, like it did with Terrence Crutcher and countless others, Wubbels did not sustain any injuries from the incident.

Aftermath

Wubbels was later released and no charges were pressed against her. The Salt Lake City Police Department announced yesterday at a press conference that it would open up an investigation into the incident. Payne was suspended from working within the blood draw unit but was permitted to continue actively working at the Salt Lake City Police Department.

Wubbles has since hired a lawyer. At the press conference, Wubbels mentioned she was considering pursuing legal action against the police department.

“I want to see people do the right thing first and I want to see this be a civil discourse,” she told Deseret News on Thursday. “If that’s not something that’s going to happen and there is a 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," said Wubbels.

Future relationship between health care and law enforcement officials

This incident sparked a conversation about the standards of interaction between healthcare providers and law enforcement. Some pointed out that this further complicated the strong relationship that the different divisions of emergency personnel were supposed to have.

“I was alarmed by what I saw in the video with our officer and Ms. Wubbels. I am sad at the rift this has caused between law-enforcement and the nurses we work so closely with. I want to be clear, we take this very seriously,” said Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown in a statement today.

Salt Lake City mayor, Jackie Biskupski, also spoke out about the matter today.

“Like many of you, I watched the video of police officers interacting with University of Utah Medical Center nurse Alex Wubbels for the first time through the media late yesterday. What I saw is completely unacceptable to the values of my administration and of the values of the Salt Lake City Police Department. I extend a personal apology to Ms. Wubbels for what she has been through for simply doing her job," said Biskupski.