SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City law enforcement officers will be following new written policies for dealing with hospitals across the valley, the police chief said Thursday.
The new procedures are a direct response to a July 26 incident when a Salt Lake police officer roughly arrested University of Utah Hospital nurse Alex Wubbels after she refused to draw blood from an unconscious patient without a warrant.
Before the incident, there were no written policies on how law enforcement interacted with hospital staff, Chief Mike Brown said at a press conference in Salt Lake City.
Hospital personnel from across the Salt Lake Valley approved of the new policy, Brown said, adding it would "ensure the positive interaction we see daily, monthly and yearly between law enforcement and nursing professionals."
The new policy was drafted in partnership with the Utah Nurses Association and the Valley Police Alliance.
Aimee McLean, president of Utah Nurses Association, said she hopes to continue discussions with officers "one piece at a time" to create new policies.
"The intent of the plan is that nurses will not leave the hospital in handcuffs because they’re protecting their patients," she said.
The protocol is similar to a University Hospital policy released Wednesday that states that officers arriving at a hospital facility to work with a patient not in custody should contact the hospital's Customer Service Office, which will locate the on-duty house supervisor.
The new policy for police departments and hospitals in the Salt Lake Valley outlines procedures for conducting blood draws, warrant service, evidence collection or witness and suspect interviews.
This is just one more way to give the officers and employees some direction on how to handle these situations...
–Sandy Police Chief Kevin Thacker
Officers are still required to contact the hospital's house supervisor when working with patients who are not in custody. For emergency room interactions, police should notify the charge nurse and current hospital security of their presence and purpose.
This does not apply if patients are already in custody, as officers follow standard department guard duty procedures.
Police officers should explain their needs and present legal process. If there is any disagreement, officers contact their sergeant or watch commander to find a resolution.
"If there is disagreement between an officer and emergency department personnel about an officer’s request for patient access or information, the officer will request that the hospital’s house supervisor be paged and respond," the policy states.
Officers should not argue with hospital personnel to resolve conflicts, the policy continues, and instead wait to resolve problems with supervisors.
Brown believes the policy will be used by police departments along the Wasatch Front. Sandy's top police officer is in favor of the policy.
"This is just one more way to give the officers and employees some direction on how to handle these situations so we don’t have something happen like this," said Sandy Police Chief Kevin Thacker.
Wubbels gave a statement Thursday regarding the new policy, saying she's grateful for the support she received from the Utah Nurses Association but was cautious about the new policy's effectivenessp.
"I’m not sure the officers involved would have followed this policy, since they didn’t seem to care about the policy already in place between the hospital and Salt Lake City police," according to the statement provided through her attorney. "If followed, however, a policy like this should reduce the risk of future incidents."
The Salt Lake police officer who arrested Wubbels, detective Jeff Payne, was fired Tuesday and his watch commander, Lt. James Tracy, was demoted.