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Friday, September 01, 2017

Heroic Salt Lake Woman Stands Up for Law, Order, and a Patient's Rights -- and Gets Arrested by Salt Lake Police

I am a law and order guy. I was raised in a family with a mother who had a "Support Your Local Police" bumper sticker on our car, and I was proud of that. It's a motto that I still use and stand by. But we live in a society where local police are increasingly becoming militarized in attitude and hardware, and sometimes depart from their role of defending our inalienable rights. I've previously mentioned the horrific problem of "civil asset forfeiture" in which local police can seize your assets without a trial, without a warrant, without due process, and then profit from what they take (getting to keep 80% of the takings, with 20% going to the Federal Government). About 80% of those cases never have criminal charges filed, so the excuse that it's just being used to go after criminals is unfounded. It's a grotesque violation of the Bill of Rights that the Trump Administration firmly supports.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions just lifted a weak restraint against this corrupt practice that had been imposed during the Obama Administration, showing us that the Bill of Rights really is becoming meaningless. But the US Constitution is still there, it's still the ultimate law of the land, and those liberties are God-given regardless of what corrupt officers say. Citizens are still right to insist on their rights and to stand up for the rights of others, though preserving those rights often requires courage.

That brings me to the story of Alex Wubbles, a heroic nurse in Salt Lake City.  Alex showed great courage in standing up against a Salt Lake police officer who was clearly breaking the law and seeking to violate the rights of an unconscious patient. This woman stood up for the law and for that patient, and ended up being manhandled and arrested by the officer, and then rudely lectured by his supervisor as if she was the problem. Those who denounce police in general, sometimes in the interest of agitating and stirring up revolution, are especially interested in this story, but it should be most meaningful for those of us who want to support our local police and yearn for a civil, peaceful society with the rule of law under the largely inspired principles of the US Constitution.

A good overview of the story is "Infuriating: Police Arrest on Duty Nurse For Refusing to Break Law" at ZeroHedge.com (warning: that site tends to have a lot of profanity in the comments). Watch the video there or below to see Alex's calm courage. She appears at about 5:27 and the violent arrest occurs shortly after that. You can also read a follow-up story at the Salt Lake Tribune. An excerpt from the ZeroHedge story follows:


“Is this patient under arrest?” Alex Wubbles asks the officer, being instructed by legal counsel on the phone.
“Nope,” the officer says.
“Do you have an electronic warrant?” She asks, searching for a way to legally comply with the officers.
“No,” The officer admits bluntly, getting annoyed.
The police did not have a warrant. The police did not have probable cause. The man was not under arrest. The unconscious patient could not consent.
The nurse, Alex, printed out the hospital’s policy which the Salt Lake City Police Department agreed to. She showed it to the officers. She clearly and calmly listed the three things which would allow her to give the police the blood sample: a warrant, patient consent, or a patient under arrest.
The police had none of these things.
“Okay, so I take it, without those in place, I am not going to get blood?” The Officer Jeff Payne is heard saying behind his body cam.
The legal counsel on the phone tries to tell the officer not to blame the messenger, and that he is making a big mistake.
Then, the officer attacks the nurse, Alex Wubbles. He drags her outside, and handcuffs her, while she cries.
“What is going on?!” She says exasperated, wondering why they are doing this to her.
She couldn’t just break the hospital policy and put her job in jeopardy because some police officers illegally told her to. She couldn’t simply collude with the lawbreakers–the police–and illegally hand over a blood sample on behalf of an unconscious patient.
That would have opened her up to lawsuits and job loss.
The officers were, in fact, breaking the law. They had no legal right to demand blood from an unconscious patient who could not consent.
The man they wanted blood from was a truck driver who had struck a vehicle being pursued by the police. It is unclear why they would even need a blood sample from the victim.
But none of these legal facts stopped the police from placing the nurse under arrest.
Wubbles was handcuffed and placed in a police vehicle. She was never actually charged.
You could chalk this up to one crazy officer, Detective Jeff Payne with the Salt Lake City Police.
But then his supervisor showed up to the scene. While the nurse was handcuffed in the cruiser, the supervisor started to lecture her.
“There are civil remedies,” he said, telling her she should have broken the law when the officer told her to. Of course, this ignored the fact that she would have been caught up in the civil action against the officers!
It’s like an episode of the Twilight Zone as the Supervisor lies and says the nurse was obstructing justice. All the nurse wanted was a warrant signed by a judge, the legal requirement to execute a search! And yet not just Officer Payne, but his Supervisor insist that she should have given them what they wanted, without a warrant.
What? Yes, go get a warrant! That is what you have been repeatedly told by the nurse and hospital staff!
You can tell from the video she is not some anti-cop crusader. She was legitimately trying to do her job and follow the law to the best of her ability. Before she is arrested, you can tell she is worried and uncomfortable, trying her best to keep the situation calm and professional.
And then the police handcuffed and dragged a crying nurse out of the building to intimidate and harass her further.
She is a strong woman. She stood up to their bullying and lies and did not give in. Despite the best efforts of the police, she would not help them violate the Fourth Amendment rights of her patient.
The supervisor told the nurse that she should cooperate, and if something was illegal in their request, that there would be "civil remedies" later. Ridiculous. She would have been violating the law and very likely would have been sued for so doing. She could lose her job, lose everything, while also losing her integrity. That's what the supervisor expected of her. This reflects not just one rogue cop having a bad day. It reflects a mentality that needs to be rooted out. It reflects a growing loss of personal liberty in the United States. Citizens need to understand their rights and stand up for them. 

Thank you, Alex Wubbles, for defending the rights of an innocent, uncharged, unconscious patient. Thank you for standing for law and order in an increasingly lawless society where the law breakers aren't always just hoodlums running from the police.

A badge and a gun do not define the law, although some people feel that law is whatever those with the guns say and demand. May we return to a safe, civil society with the rule of law and law that conforms with and protects the inalienable, God-given rights of individuals.

Fellow Utahans, don't ignore this troubling story. Don't ignore the loss of personal rights as long as it's just someone else being dragged away in cuffs for doing what's right. Once liberty and basic rights are lost, they are not easily regained. Speak up. Support law and order, and help our local police become the kind of local police who not only refuse to participate in illegal civil asset forfeiture, but who won't abuse their power to get their way and trample on the rights of others.  We need effective local police whose leaders ensure that they follow and respect the law, particularly the Bill of Rights. Local police who respect their local fellow citizens should be a part of our local community that we are all proud of. Change is needed in Salt Lake and around the nation to regain that.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

First of all, the problem began when the wreck occurred in Cache County. The Logan PD was called to handle the investigation because UHP was in pursuit of the car at the time it crashed into the truck. The crash caused a fire in the truck, & the driver exited, on fire. Flames were extinguished on the scene. In Utah, ANYONE with a CDL who is in an accident, will have blood drawn, usually at the scene, to prove there were no drugs in their system. It is in the fine print of the CDL, and is considered written consent, not implied consent. The Logan PD should have drawn the blood, because as soon as the paramedics arrived to treat a burn victim, the standing orders are going to include 1) starting an IV for fluids & 2) pain meds. Even tho the draw should have occurred at the site, & that is why the officers are trained for blood draws, Logan PD asked SLC PD to draw the blood sample. Keep in mind that Logan talked with the driver while he was still conscious. In a nutshell, the RN was wrong (and I am a retired RN). She is not a hero. She did not "protect the patient" . She guaranteed that when his insurance company demands a clean blood draw before they will cover the astronomical bills from the burn unit, that he will not have one. The RN was not being asked to draw the blood; the officers were trained to do that. She would not allow them to do so.

The officer in the video behaved like a jerk. He will likely lose his job, not for the blood draw issue, but for the completely inexcusable comments made on camera while the RN was in the car, and he should, since his comments were beyond unprofessional. Having said that, the truck driver was a retired police officer from Rigby, Idaho. The SLPD officer knew this driver was a fellow officer & had waited for an hour & a half to draw the blood for the test that would protect the driver by proving he was not impaired at the time of the crash. He knew what would happen to the driver without a clean blood test, & the clock was ticking.

I suspect that the RN will also lose her job, but it will take longer. When the patient regains consciousness, realizes what happened, & asks why his blood was not drawn, a few things will hit the fan. If his insurance refuses to pay this bill - and they may, without a clean blood test - he will have no choice but to sue the RN who prevented that blood draw. Think about it for a few minutes. The hospital has known about this for a MONTH. They took no action. Hospitals usually have at least one lawyer, and one the size of the U of U would have a legal team. If they took no action, it was because they did not expect a win. The hospital will have no problem throwing the RN under the bus, so to speak, when the patient sues.

Utah State law allows a blood draw by the officers at the scene of any CDL holder involved in a crash, regardless of fault. He signed the consent when he accepted the CDL. State law trumps hospital policy. Period.

Patients usually arrive at a burn unit in a transport. As a result, the blood draw issues would usually happen before they arrive, so it is not really surprising that even a charge RN would not know the CDL gives written consent.

As a retired RN, my question is why was the RN dealing with the officer in the first place? She called the house supervisor, who should have been immediately on scene. Had I been that supervisor, my first call would have been to the administrator on call, who would have then called the hospital lawyer, & the legal team would have sorted out the law right there with SLPD. SLPD should not have escalated the situation, but neither should the RN. The person who lost the most is the patient.

Jeff Lindsay said...

This is valuable information. Thank you! Sounds like the blood draw was in the patient's interests. If they had written consent via the CDL, though, why did the police answer "no" when asked if they had consent? They said they didn't have consent. The nurse asked if they did, very clearly. Why not explain the situation? Why not explain that the CDL includes that?

It just went from "Oh, no blood? Then I'm busting you!" Violently, at that. All force, no negotiation and explanation. Further, why not just get an emergency warrant given the policy? When they saw that the hospital policy was in the way, why not work with the supervisors at the hospital to persuade them or, that failing, go get a warrant? When there are barriers, there's a process. Due process.

I really hate to beat up on police officers when they face so much unwarranted wrath and harassment for doing their job, but when they behave this way -- not just one, but multiple parties in the department, per the Tribune story -- there is a serious problem.

Anonymous said...

The first Anonymous is blaming the victim. Repeatedly. All the victims, the burn victim, the nurse, and the hospital. The nurse did not escalate the situation. If that is actually the case about the CDL (and I just read the Utah code and don't agree with that interpretation) then it should have been built into the hospital policy, which the Salt Lake Police approved. Police fault all around. Completely indefensible actions. Why would you want to defend clear Fourth Amendment violations, Anonymous?

Anonymous said...

Jeff, if anyone had called Logan PD, they would have known they had consent. The hospital could have done that, but so could SLPD.

The videos show 20 minutes of an interaction that lasted several hours. I was not there, but neither were all the reporters spinning their interpretations of the videos. I agree the officer used excessive force, & made completely unprofessional comments while the RN was in the police vehicle, but this was not a "clear Fourth Amendment violation" - far from it.

Whether Anonymous at 5:58 "agrees" with that interpretation of the Utah code is irrelevant, because the interpretation is not mine, & Utah judges have already ruled on this repeatedly. In all those hundred of comments of outrage on both SL Tribune & KSL, there are a few individuals who identify themselves as CDL holders, & who try to explain, & get ripped apart. I am not a lawyer, but I am sure they will be involved, & a lawsuit will clear this up. Drawing blood when you have consent is not a Fourth Amendment violation, & the person who lost the most was the patient.

Anon 5:58, you missed where I blamed the Logan PD.

Anon 1:29

Anonymous said...

(Anon2 here.) Doesn't really matter what case law exists, if it predates the 2016 Supreme Court ruling, or violates the Fourth Amendment.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Another RN told me that the implied consent issue has not applied in Utah for about 10 years. Anyone know for sure? Perhaps that's why the officer said he lacked consent and why the supervisor in his chiding did not raise that issue. If they had it, why say they didn't?

Jeff Lindsay said...

Wubbles's attorney said in a news conference that implied consent hasn't been in effect in Utah in over 10 years. This is per input I received on Facebook.

Anonymous said...

In the comments on the Salt Lake Tribune's latest story, that 2 officers were placed on leave, a CDL holder spells it out pretty well. The wreck involved a fatality - the driver of the car for which UHP was in pursuit - who hit the truck head on & died. There is some speculation now that the driver may have been a " suicide by cop" situation. In any case, according to this CDL holder, if you hold a CDL and are involved in a fatal accident, you will be blood-tested, regardless of fault in the accident. He both references & quotes the statute in his comment, and it is not the same quote everyone is throwing around with the implied consent. Implied consent applies to all drivers licenses, not just CDL holders.

Nevertheless, if implied consent has not been in effect for over 10 years in Utah, then why would the police departments in the state still be spending funds to train officers to draw blood? That does not make sense.

With all the coverage given to this story, one would think that at least one news station would have sent someone an hour north to talk with Logan PD, since they are the ones who asked SLPD to do the blood draw. Logan PD actually talked with the truck driver before he was medicated, & while he was conscious. One of my daughters is an EMT, and she told me that if the truck driver gave verbal consent at the scene for the blood draw, that should have been "noted" by the paramedics, so one would think the officers & the hospital would both have checked there.

In a perfect world, Logan PD would have done the blood draw at the scene, but we don't live in a perfect world. Even tho officers are trained to do the blood draws, I can understand that they might have been hesitant to try to draw blood from an newly burned arm. I have drawn lots of blood myself, & it would have intimidated me.

It bothers me that many of the comments on these articles flat out state that they think the police are trying to make this truck driver the fall guy for UHP pursuing someone who then died in the crash. The officers said that they were drawing the blood to "protect" the driver, but that is completely discarded as a lie, without any basis to do so, other than that the commenter does not trust the police.

Anon 1:29

Glenn Thigpen said...

There were several failures in this case, but not on part of the nurse. She not only printed off a copy of the hospital operating procedures, she also asked for clarification from a supervisor. If this confrontation lasted two hours, there was plenty of time for the officer to obtain the needed warrant or obtain the information that verbal consent had been given.

Glenn

Anonymous said...

(Anon2 here) I'm not convinced, but even if there is some obscure technicality involved here, millions of people have seen this interaction, and millions have condemned it. When almost our entire society, "conservative" and "liberal," black and white, and also international observers, condemn a police action, it's really strange that anyone would try to justify it, or explain it away. There is no justification for this kind of thuggery.