Utah police lieutenant demoted over arrest of nurse over blood draw

Detective fired earlier over actions that were captured on video

Utah police lieutenant demoted over arrest of nurse over blood draw
Nurse Alex Wubbels is shown during an incident at University of Utah Hospital in this still photo taken from police bodycam video taken in Salt Lake City, Utah on July 26, 2017. Courtesy Salt Lake City Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) — A Utah police lieutenant who ordered a detective to arrest a nurse after she refused to let the detective take a blood sample from an unconscious patient without a warrant was demoted on Wednesday, according to a police spokesman and police records.

James Tracy, a lieutenant who was the watch commander at the time of the July 26 incident, was demoted to officer. A lawyer for Tracy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Detective Jeff Payne, accused of assaulting and unlawfully arresting the nurse, was fired from the force on Tuesday, according to Salt Lake City police spokesman Detective Robert Ungricht and police records.

"We are disappointed with the decision and will be filing an appeal this week. We acknowledge the wrongful conduct but believe termination is not the proper remedy," Payne's attorney, Greg Skordas, said in an email.  

Police chief Mike Brown decided to terminate Payne's employment after reviewing information about the incident, records showed.

"I am deeply troubled by your lack of sound professional judgement and your discourteous, disrespectful, and unwarranted behaviour, which unnecessarily escalated a situation that could and should have been resolved in a manner far different from the course of action you chose to pursue," Brown said in a memorandum to Payne.

Brown said Tracy showed a lack of judgement and leadership.

Ungricht declined to comment further, citing pending expected civil litigation from the men and open investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and district attorney.

Body camera footage of Payne taking nurse Alexandra Wubbels into custody made headlines. The footage shows Payne roughly handcuffing Wubbels and shoving her into an unmarked squad car after she refused to let him draw blood from an unconscious man, who had been badly injured when he crashed at the end of a police chase.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Brown previously apologised to Wubbels.

Payne was fired last month from his second job as a part-time paramedic.

Hospital representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the firing and demotion.

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