Frequently Asked Questions REGarding the July 26th Blood draw incident at the University of Utah Medical Center
On July 26th a Salt Lake City Police Department Detective arrested University of Utah Medical Center nurse Alex Wubbels for refusing to perform a blood draw on an unconscious patient. Mayor Biskupski and Chief Mike Brown have publicly and privately apologized to Ms. Wubbels and are working to ensure this type of incident never happens again.
The public is understandably upset by video, which documents this incident. In response to thousands of emails, calls, and social media posts, the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office in cooperation with Salt Lake City Police Department has developed this FAQ.
What is the latest on the investigation into the incident, and what will happen next?
On October 10th, Salt Lake City Police Department Chief Mike Brown exercised his authority under state and city code to take disciplinary action against the officers involved. This decision is guided by the results of the Internal Affairs investigation and the independent Police Civilian Review Board investigation (see below). Note: Code does not provide discipline authority directly to the Mayor.
For more information on Chief Brown’s decision, or to comment, please contact the Salt Lake City Police Department at 801-799-4420 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Three investigations took place or are currently underway:
1. Salt Lake City Police Department Internal Affairs -- COMPLETE
2. Independent Police-Civilian Review Board investigation COMPLETE
(Both to to determine if SLCPD policy was violated. Click here for more information on these report.
3. Independent criminal investigation led by the Salt Lake County District Attorney
*Note: The District Attorney is an independently elected office, not affiliated with the City and/or Mayor.
Next Steps: Under state code (view here), disciplinary action can be appealed to the Civil Service Commission.
Why did it take the public release of video for Salt Lake City to act?
It didn’t. Within 24 hours of the July 26th incident, Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) took action, including launching an Internal Affairs investigation. Also within 24 hours of the incident, SLCPD command staff met with hospital CEO and COO, Nursing Management Team, their legal representatives, and University of Utah Police Chief Brophy.
During these initial conversations SLCPD apologized for the incident and promised to find a solution.
Days later, SLCPD’s blood draw policy was under review and an updated policy took effect on August 25th. The new policy makes clear implied consent shall not be used as a method for obtaining a blood draw. If probable cause has been established, and consent cannot or will not be given, a search warrant for a blood draw must be sought.
Mayor Biskupski, Chief Mike Brown, and the SLCPD policy management team continues to work closely with the hospital staff, and health care professionals on improved policies and training.
Why didn't the Mayor and/or Chief Brown fire the police officers involved immediately?
Utah state law provides that police officers have a protected property interest in their City employment, which cannot be taken away without due process. Salt Lake City also has a contract with the Salt Lake Police Association, a union that represents police officers. The union contract provides additional procedural protections and processes that must be followed before any adverse employment action can be taken.
Simply firing officers without regard for the law or the union contract could result in the reinstatement of an officer on procedural grounds, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the investigation into their conduct.
Further, Utah State code provides that only the head of the police department, not the Mayor, can suspend or discharge employees in the classified civil service. View code here.
Why weren’t the Salt Lake City Police Department officers involved placed on administrative leave immediately?
There is no acceptable reason. While the Detective, the primary officer involved in the July 26th arrest, was immediately removed from the blood draw program, the decision not to immediately place him and another SLCPD officer involved on leave is regrettable.
When Mayor Biskupski and Chief Mike Brown first reviewed the video on August 31st, they took steps to ensure both officers were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the Internal Affairs investigation.
Steps are also underway to address internal practices and reporting procedures, which did not require staff to notify the Mayor of this incident.
When did Mayor Biskupski and Chief Mike Brown view the video?
Like the public, Mayor Biskupski first saw the video of the July 26th incident online on Thursday, August 31st. Mayor Biskupski immediately met with the City Attorney and Chief Brown to determine what actions had been taken.
While SLCPD command staff reviewed the video within 24 hours, Chief Mike Brown did not view the video until Thursday, August 31st. The Chief is typically separated from the evidence of an Internal Affairs investigation until it is complete due to his role as the final arbiter in employment action. The Internal Affairs investigation was opened within 24 hours.
What happened once Mayor Biskupski saw the video?
Within 24 hours of viewing the video on August 31st, Mayor Biskupski reached out to Alex Wubbels to apologize for the actions of SLCPD officers. Mayor Biskupski also directed staff to reach out to the Salt Lake County District Attorney, an independently elected County official, to inquire into the possibility of a criminal investigation into the actions of the SLCPD officers, which the DA determined he would initiate. Following these actions, both officers were placed on administrative leave.
What is happening now?
At the Mayor’s direction, the City is continuing to work with stakeholders to ensure this never happens again. This includes changing internal practices and reporting procedures, which kept the Mayor from becoming immediately involved.