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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake police detective Jeff Payne, who has come under nationwide scrutiny for his arrest of a University Hospital nurse, believes he could have handled the situation differently, but maintains he had probable cause to arrest Alex Wubbels.
That's according to Salt Lake Police Association President Stephen Hartney who spoke Tuesday, a day after releasing a three-page letter addressed to Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown and Mayor Jackie Biskupski saying that Payne and Salt Lake Police Lt. James Tracy deserve to have the ongoing investigations into their conduct fully completed before the city makes public comments about them.
On July 26, Payne was sent to University Hospital to collect blood from a man injured in a fatal crash. But Wubbels — citing policy agreed upon by the hospital and the police department — declined to tell Payne where the patient was or allow him to draw blood.
Payne ultimately arrested the screaming charge nurse after pushing her out of the emergency room. Police body camera video of the incident caused outcries of protest from across the country and prompted Biskupski and Brown to personally apologize to Wubbels for the way she was treated.
On Tuesday, Hartney said he wasn't ready to argue the merits of the two officers' actions, claiming he has not seen the complete body camera video. However, he did say that he has talked with Payne.
"I've spoken to officer Payne myself and he said, 'Yes, of course I could have done things differently.' But once he made the decision to make the arrest, he needs to follow through. And he did follow through," Hartney said.
The union president suspects that most of the public has only seen a 20-second clip of Wubbels being arrested, even though much longer videos were posted on Deseret News and other media websites. He said he wants to know what happened during the 90 minutes before Payne arrested the nurse before fully commenting on his actions.
Based on what little he says he has seen, Hartney believes Payne gave Wubbels ample time to peacefully put her hands behind her back before arresting her more forcefully.
"I would say yes, because in that video I saw, I could see that she was informed that she was under arrest. I saw her swat officer Payne's hand away using her hand. I saw her back up. I saw her spin around. There was lots of movements there," Hartney said.
He also noted that "any resisting of arrest, it's embarrassing and it does not look good. There's no way it ever can. It's odd to say, but known criminals are easier to arrest than a first-time offender because they know the process: they turn around, they put their hands behind their back, we put handcuffs on them and escort them to the car."
A report from the independent Civilian Review Board, released by the city earlier this month concluded, however, that "detective Payne had become too emotionally involved in the confrontation with (Wubbels)," and that his physical actions toward the nurse "were needless and overly aggressive for the situation."
Payne's attorney, Greg Skordas, concurred Tuesday night that his client, "has said he wishes he could do it over as he would do things differently. He did believe at the time that he had probable cause to make the arrest."