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Utah police put on leave for arresting nurse Wubbels

شعار Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 02/09/2017
Wubbels was arrested at University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City [Salt Lake City Police Department/Reuters] © Provided by Al Jazeera Wubbels was arrested at University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City [Salt Lake City Police Department/Reuters]

A Salt Lake City police officer has been put on paid leave after he was filmed arresting and roughing up a nurse at a hospital for refusing to allow blood to be drawn from an unconscious patient.

Nurse Alex Wubbels said she was frightened when the police officer handcuffed and dragged her screaming from the hospital in July.

After Wubbels and her lawyers released the dramatic footage of the arrest in the state of Utah, prosecutors called for a criminal investigation and Salt Lake City police put Detective Jeff Payne on paid leave on Friday.

"This cop bullied me. He bullied me to the utmost extreme," Wubbels said in an interview with The Associated Press news agency. "And nobody stood in his way."

The Salt Lake City police chief and mayor apologised and changed department policies in line with the guidance Wubbels was following in the July 26 incident.

Wubbels said she adhered to her training and hospital protocols to protect the rights of a patient who could not speak for himself.

The video has gone viral, with many on social media once again raising questions about police brutality in the United States.

By the time of writing, more than 140,000 people had signed a change.org petition: "Justice for Alex Wubbels".

(The video above was posted to YouTube by The Salt Lake Tribune)

"You can't just take blood if you don't have a legitimate concern for something to be tested," Wubbels said. "It is the most personal property I think that we can have besides our skin and bones and organs."

Payne did not return messages left at publicly listed phone numbers, and the Salt Lake Police Association union did not respond to messages for comment. The department and a civilian board also are conducting reviews.

"I was alarmed by what I saw in the video with our officer," Police Chief Mike Brown said, after confirming Payne had been suspended from the blood-draw programme.

Police body-camera video shows Wubbels, who works in the burn unit, calmly explaining that she could not take blood from a patient who had been injured in a deadly car accident, citing a recent change in law.

A 2016 US Supreme Court ruling said a blood sample cannot be taken without patient consent or a warrant.

Wubbels told Payne that a patient had to allow a blood sample to determine intoxication or be under arrest.

Otherwise, she said police needed a warrant. Police did not, but Payne insisted.

Nurse put under arrest

The dispute ended with Payne saying, "We're done, you're under arrest" and pulling her outside while she screamed and said, "I've done nothing wrong!"

He had called his supervisor and discussed the time-sensitive blood draw for over an hour with hospital staff, police spokeswoman Christina Judd said.

"It's not an excuse. It definitely doesn't forgive what happened," she said.

Payne wrote in a police report that he grabbed Wubbels and took her outside to avoid causing a "scene" in the emergency room.

He said his boss, a lieutenant whose actions also were being reviewed, told him to arrest Wubbels if she kept interfering.

The detective left Wubbels in a police car for 20 minutes before realising that blood had already been drawn as part of treatment, said her lawyer, Karra Porter. Wubbels was not charged.

The hospital said it is proud of the way Wubbels handled the situation.

The patient was a victim in a car crash and Payne wanted the blood sample to show he had done nothing wrong, according to the officer's written report.

The patient, William Gray, is a reserve police officer in Rigby, Idaho, according to the city's police. They thanked Wubbels for protecting his rights.

Gray is a semi-truck driver and was on the road when a pickup truck fleeing from authorities slammed into him and his truck burst into flames, police reports say.

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