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Salt Lake officer appeals demotion for arrest of University Hospital nurse

(Salt Lake Police)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — James Tracy, who was demoted from a lieutenant in the Salt Lake City Police Department to an officer for his role in the controversial arrest of University Hospital nurse Alex Wubbels, will appeal his demotion.

"The demotion from lieutenant to officer III is excessive discipline under the circumstances and given his lack of any discipline history," according to the official notice of appeal filed by Tracy and his attorney, Ed Brass.

Tracy is seeking to be reinstated to the rank of lieutenant and receive back pay and benefits from the time he was demoted.

Tracy was one of two Salt Lake City officers who came under intense public scrutiny after body camera video of Wubbels' arrest became public.

On July 26, Salt Lake detective Jeff Payne was sent to University Hospital to collect blood from a man injured in a crash that killed the driver who caused it. But the charge nurse — 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.

The detective, with direction from his supervisor that day, Tracy, ultimately arrested the screaming nurse after physically pushing her out of the emergency room and holding her against a wall while handcuffing her. Police body camera video of the incident caused outcries of protest from across the country and prompted Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown to personally apologize to Wubbels for the way she was treated while doing her job.

In his appeal, Tracy claims he never ordered Payne to arrest Wubbels, but rather told him to "consider arresting her."

Furthermore, Tracy says he was never informed of the updated policy agreed upon by hospital officials and the police department regarding blood draws.

"Lt. Tracy was operating under an outmoded policy and one that was clearly inconsistent with state law when it came to drawing blood from unconscious or deceased accident victims," his appeal states. "He had been given no training in the new policy and had no reason to believe he could deviate from the policy he believed to be in effect at the time."

In his letter demoting Tracy, Brown noted that information withheld by Payne may have influenced Tracy's actions that day. But the blood draw policy controversy aside, he should have shown better leadership and treated Wubbels and the hospital staff better, the chief said.

After Wubbels is handcuffed and placed in a Salt Lake City police patrol car, Tracy is seen on body camera video talking to the hospital's COO, who tells him he is making a mistake.

"I don’t need you to make a phone call to tell me what authority I have because I know what authority I have," the lieutenant is heard saying.

Later in the video, Tracy tells Payne that Wubbels' arrest won't stick and that they will let her go. But while talking to Wubbels before taking the handcuffs off, he tells her the case may be reviewed with prosecutors for criminal charges.

Tracy lists nearly all of the police department's top brass, including Brown, as possible witnesses that he may call during his appeals hearing.

Payne, who was fired from the department, has also filed an appeal. His termination letter from the chief was a blistering 17 pages that stated while his 27 years of service was recognized, it "is outweighed by the glaring absence of sound professional judgment and extremely discourteous, disrespectful, inappropriate, unreasonable and unwarranted behavior you displayed in this incident."

On Wednesday, Wubbels and her attorney, Karra Porter were scheduled to have a press conference in front of the Salt Lake City Police Department. It was canceled without explanation, however, at the last minute. Porter said the press conference would be rescheduled within the next 48 hours.

As of Wednesday, Wubbels has not said whether she will file a civil lawsuit as a result of her arrest.

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