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U. officials announce policy change, offer apology to nurse

SHARE U. officials announce policy change, offer apology to nurse

SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah officials announced Monday there's a new protocol for hospital interactions with law enforcement and also apologized to nurse Alex Wubbels for her now-viral July 26 arrest in the emergency room.

"This will not happen again," Gordon Crabtree, CEO of University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics, told reporters at a hastily called news conference held fours days after Wubbels released police body camera footage from the incident.

The footage shows an angry detective announcing, "We're done," then grabbing the screaming nurse, dragging her outside, then handcuffing her while she was pushed up against a wall while she cries out for help saying she has done nothing wrong. Wubbels, in handcuffs, is then pushed from behind and forced into a police car after refusing an order to draw blood from an unconcious patient against hospital policy.

Crabtree praised Wubbels, who returned to work about a week and a half ago, for standing firm and said "she put her own safety at risk to ensure the safety and privacy of the patient. Her actions are nothing less than exemplary."

Detective Jeff Payne was placed on paid administrative leave Friday along with a second, unnamed officer believed to be Salt Lake Police Lt. James Tracy after public outrage over the video spread across the country. Payne said he was just following orders. Tracy was the watch commander at the time and also came to the scene and was recorded on video exchanging sharp words with the handcuffed nurse.

Dale Brophy, chief of the U.'s Department of Public Safety, apologized to Wubbels Monday. He said none of his department's officers have been disciplined or placed on leave despite not intervening on her behalf at the scene.

At one point in the video, Wubbels asks a U. police officer, "Can you protect me?" The officer replies no, going on to tell the frightened nurse, "If he's going to arrest you, I'm not going to stop him." The officer is identified as "S. Worona" in a police report.

Crabtree said hospital officials and campus police met the day after the incident and have implemented a new policy that now requires law enforcement officials to deal with hospital supervisors rather than nurses or other staff members.

The new policy, which also calls for those interactions to take place away from areas of the hospital where patients are being treated, was implemented about two weeks after the incident but was not made public until Monday.

Wubbels — who was released about 20 minutes after she was arrested and was never charged with anything — aappeared on NBC's "Today Show" Monday with her attorney, Karra Porter, and said that while Salt Lake police were addressing her concerns, U. police and public safety officers were not.

She said her conversations with Salt Lake police about the incident "actually were progressive. They wanted to walk down a path of positive change, but I did not have the same response from the University police and the University security."

Wubbels, who said she released the video because there needed to be accountability, called the U. response "sort of a little bit of a trigger to say, 'Alright, this is what you need to see. If you're not willing to see it then I'll show it to you.'"

Brophy, in his first public statements about the incident, told reporters he met with Wubbels about the incident Aug. 29, two days before the video was released, along with her attorney, Karra Porter, and an attorney for the hospital.

"That meeting was before I had any opportunity to view the body camera footage and have a full scope and understanding of what was happening. So her impression from that meeting was accurate," the campus police chief said.

He said while he knew Wubbels had been arrested, "in law enforcement, there are two sides to every story. I had none of them. It's not my case. The officer that arrested her was from the Salt Lake City Police Department."

But Brophy said after he watched a copy of the video provided by the U.'s attorneys the same day that it was made public, his attitude "changed considerably," although he said he hasn't been able to reach Wubbels since their meeting.

What he would tell her, Brophy said, is that he's sorry for what happened.

"I apologize to her for what she had to go through, that she's a rock star. She did everything right in this case and she didn't deserve to be arrested for what she did," he said.

Seeing the video, Brophy said, made him understand the concerns raised by Wubbels and her attorney. "It was clear that the arrest was completely mishandled, was inappropriate and didn't need to happen," he said.

Crabtree said hospital officials are working with Brophy and U. security officers to ensure they "understand their primary duty is to advocate for and protect our patients and staff."

He said they also "have a duty to uphold and instill the confidence of those in our hospital that they serve. It's imperative that we act together with law enforcement but protocols must be appropriate."

Wubbels said Monday she couldn't say whether putting the Salt Lake officers involved in the incident on administrative leave while investigations are underway is enough of a response. She did not rule out taking legal action, telling the "Today Show," that "nothing is off the table."

Crabtree said legal action is under review by the U. general counsel but he was not aware of what was being contemplated. He said there has been confusion over how quickly the hospital reacted to the incident.

Senior hospital officials responded within minutes of the scene in the emergency room and attempted to talk officers out of arresting the charge nurse, Crabtree said, and convened the following day to look at changing the policy for dealing with police.

"Our responsiblity was to make sure that a change did happen and whether … it went out or not, wasn't our focus," he said. "It's been misunderstood that we sort of waited for the body cam coverage before we acted. That's not true."