Police detective appeals firing over Utah nurse arrest

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (KSL) — Jeff Payne, the Salt Lake police detective fired Tuesday for his high-profile arrest of University Hospital nurse Alex Wubbels, wants his job back.

Late Thursday, Payne and his attorney, Greg Skordas, filed an appeal of Payne’s termination and requested a hearing before the Salt Lake City Civil Service Commission.

On July 26, 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, Lt. James 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.

On Tuesday, Brown sent a scathing 17-page letter to Payne announcing his termination.

“I am deeply troubled by your lack of sound, professional judgment and your discourteous, disrespectful and unwarranted behavior, which unnecessarily escalated a situation that could and should have been resolved in a manner far different from the course of action you chose to pursue,” the chief wrote.

While he recognized that Payne had served the department for 27 years, Brown said his service “is outweighed by the glaring absence of sound professional judgment and extremely discourteous, disrespectful, inappropriate, unreasonable and unwarranted behavior you displayed in this incident.”

In their notice of appeal, Payne and Skordas say they are seeking Payne’s reinstatement with the police department. In preparation for the hearing, Skordas is also asking for “any correspondence” between Brown and Biskupski regarding Payne’s firing, and a copy of the Salt Lake City Police Department’s blood draw policies that were in place the day Wubbels was arrested.

Payne said he may call Tracy as well as Salt Lake police officers Denton Harper and Andrew Soelberg to testify at the hearing.

Tracy, who was demoted two ranks from a lieutenant to an officer, has not said yet whether he will appeal, though his attorney, Ed Brass, said Tuesday it was likely. Tracy has until early next week to file an appeal.