SALT LAKE CITY — Two officers under investigation in the rough arrest of a nurse have been unfairly made into pariahs after body-camera footage got widespread attention online, a Utah police union said Monday.
The Salt Lake Police Association said in a letter to the mayor and police chief that it is “extremely concerned and dismayed” about handling that has “corrupted” the high-profile investigation, The Deseret News reported.
“The premature release of body cam footage is particularly demoralizing as it allows the public who have not trained as police officers to make what often amounts to biased and ill-informed judgments of the police,” association president Stephen Hartney said in a letter.
The mayor and police chief have apologized to nurse Alex Wubbels, who was handcuffed and dragged from a hospital after she explained she couldn’t allow a blood draw on an unconscious patient under hospital policy.
Dramatic body-camera video of the July 26 incident made it a flashpoint in a national debate on police use of force. The video was released by Wubbels and her lawyer, who obtained it through a public records request
Police Chief Mike Brown declined comment on the letter, though spokeswoman Christina Judd told The Associated Press that Brown recognizes the union works diligently on behalf of officers.
Brown is weighing possible discipline for the officers that could include firing.
Mayor Jackie Biskupski continues to believe that the police behaviour shown in the video was unacceptable, but she’s carefully avoided influencing the outcome of the investigation in the extraordinary situation, spokesman Matthew Rojas said.
Detective Jeff Payne and his supervisor Lt. James Tracy were placed on paid leave after the video drew condemnation and prosecutors opened a criminal probe of their actions.
In an unusual step aimed at repairing what Biskupski called a rift in public trust, she spoke publicly about an internal investigation that found evidence policies were violated in the arrest.
A civilian review board report found Payne apparently lost control of his emotions after a long wait to draw blood from the patient, who had been injured in a July 26 car accident and wasn’t suspected of wrongdoing.
Payne was backed by Tracy, a supervisor who told Wubbels she could be arrested if she didn’t allow the blood draw. The dispute ended with Payne dragging the nurse outside as she screamed she’d done nothing wrong.