There is so much that is just wrong with this story and what has happened since the “incident” occurred. A few observations:
1) Lack of accountability. Detective Jeff Payne was placed on “administrative duty” on September 1. That’s 36 days after the “incident.” The disciplinary action was taken only after the video showing the incident was released by the nurse, Alex Wubbels. The disciplinary action placing Payne on administrative leave was taken only after prosecutors called for a criminal investigation. Up to that point, the only action taken was to suspend Payne from his “blood draw” duties. But he remained employed and in his active detective role. He is still currently employed pending an internal investigation.
2) Lack of transparency. This incident happened on July 26 and the city of Salt Lake City was OK to let it slide and never said a word until the video was released by Ms. Wubbels and her attorney. That’s when they issued the “public apology” on September 1 and disclosed they had earlier met with hospital officials and revised their policies. The initial response included the information that Payne had immediately been relieved of his “blood drawing” duties. Later in the day he was placed on administrative leave.
This was a blatant and egregious disregard for the law by a law enforcement officer and a flagrant display of brutality by that officer. Typically there are contractual processes between police unions and municipalities that often require a municipality to follow a tortuous route to discipline and/or fire a police officer. But to keep Payne on active duty after such an incident is a severe breech of the public trust. Officers who violate the law must be held to account immediately.
This incident is indicative of a much more serious and malignant problem. We have for too long let police behave with impunity, ignored or abided abuses of power and allowed law enforcement agencies the luxury of policing themselves. Many officers undoubtedly feel emboldened to act without fear of reprisals because so many actually do get away with criminal acts, including murder. (Not to mention being encouraged to ignore citizens’ rights by the nation’s highest elected official.)
We all know this goes on. We’ve all seen or read about an uncountable number of incidents where police officers are given the benefit of the doubt despite overwhelming evidence of wrongful action and citizens’ rights and lives are forfeit. This is a scenario played out daily in many communities across the United States. Perhaps Ms. Wubbels’ story will serve as a warning.
No one, regardless of race or station, is safe from police abuse and violence.
All citizens must demand better from our law enforcement agencies and our elected officials. The slow action by Salt Lake City police brass and the city administration is testament to the need for focus on reforming the lax oversight of law enforcement in our communities. We must all voice our condemnation of abuse of power by law enforcement. If it can happen to a typical professional white woman in a safe, public workplace it can happen to anyone, in any place.
Silence is assent.