The recent arrest of nurse Alex Wubbles in Salt Lake City, Utah for refusing to draw blood from an unconscious patient sparked a discussion nationwide and here at BYU-Hawaii on the state of U.S. law enforcement.
“How many videos will it take for us to realize that these instances are not abnormal but more common than we would like to think?” asked James Watkins, a professor of accounting at BYUH and a lawyer from California.
Watkins said he found the anomaly not to be police abusing their power, but also having a video to prove the abuse. He referenced other publicly released videos that show police misconduct.
Earl Morris, the director of Security at BYUH and the Polynesian Cultural Center as well as a 40-year law enforcement officer, said, “In any profession, you have good and bad men and women. One professional making a mistake or a poor decision does not reflect the profession as a whole. For example, just because one black man shoots and kills someone does not mean we can assume every black man is a murderer.”
Morris said the generalization that all police officers are bad, only because 1 percent of law enforcement make stupid mistakes, frustrates him.
Watkins said from years of practicing law in California, he has become all too familiar with police officers abusing their authority.
Watkins said he blames situations like Wubble’s arrest on poor training of police officers, training which drills officers to see people as a threat rather than individuals to serve. He said he recognizes the varying opinions on this issue and does not claim to know all the answers.
Watkins said he believes in order to arrive to a better solution in satisfying all, a public forum voicing both sides needs to be held; while Morris said he believes the solution to police misconduct already lies within the law enforcement structure through self-policing and review boards.
Randy Graham, a resident of Utah and former vice president of Action Target, a company dedicated to building training facilities for law enforcement and military, defended law enforcement. He said, “Police officers are typically well trained in conflict resolution, but they are put into extremely difficult situations where they are under immense stress. Stress that unfortunately occasionally leads to bad decisions.”
Graham concluded, “We cannot let these rare negative examples, that rightly attract attention and criticism, negate the thousands of positive experiences that we have with police officers fulfilling their duty every day.”
Charlotte Sudweeks, a senior political science major from Washington, D.C., said, “I believe this is a poor representation of the police force, although it is an unfortunate misuse of power, it doesn’t represent the police force as a whole.
“Although, I do believe negotiation tactics should always be a priority and something more focused on in police training.”
According to AP, Wubbles “was arrested for refusing to draw blood from an unconscious patient on July 26. Stating hospital policy, Wubbles explained that without a warrant or consent of the patient she could not draw blood.
“Utah law enforcer, Jeff Payne, under direction from his lieutenant, arrested Wubbles for interfering with an investigation. Payne handcuffed Wubbles and dragged her out of the hospital while she screamed, ‘Somebody help me, I’ve done nothing wrong.’
“Wubbles released footage from the body camera of Salt Lake City police officer showing her arrest.” The footage was made public and shared across social media, and the officer’s actions were criticized.
After the initial clip went viral, other news agencies began reporting on other parts of the footage that wasn’t previously shared, particularly footage from Payne’s body camera that shows him discussing the arrest with watch commander Lt. James Tracy.
Tracy tells Payne at one point, “I don’t think this arrest is going to stick… Unfortunately, when I told Payne, ‘Hey, we’re going to escalate this to get our blood. I didn’t know that that’s standard practice, [the hospital will] draw blood right off the bat and test it. Had I known that, it would’ve been a lot easier.”
Near the end of the video, he says, “I’ll bring [the hospital] all the transients and take good patients elsewhere.”
Another officer’s body camera footage shows Tracy telling Wubbles, “If we’re doing wrong, there are civil remedies. It’s called first reporting mistreating. If we took this blood illegally, it all goes away.” He tells her that preventing the officer from getting the blood was “an obstruction of justice.”
One of the other hospital staff members tells Tracy he has the hospital privacy officer on the phone, but Tracy asks, “What does he know about this individual that I’m trying to get blood from?” The staff member replies, “Just what we’ve told him.” Tracy responds, “So he doesn’t know anything. I don’t need to talk to him, because he’s going to tell me what your policy is and I understand what your policy is. I’m trying to tell you what I need legally, and your policy right now is contravening what I need legally.”
Tracy adds, “There’s a very bad habit [with this hospital’s] policy interfering with my law.”
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, both Tracy and Payne were put on leave on Sept. 1.