Officer in nurse arrest was reprimanded for sex harassment

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah officer caught on video dragging a nurse from a hospital and handcuffing her was previously reprimanded for sexually harassing a female co-worker, according to police documents released amid investigations into the arrest that became a flashpoint in the debate over police use of force.

Internal affairs investigations by Salt Lake City police confirmed allegations that Detective Jeff Payne harassed a department employee in a “severe and persistent” way in 2013. It included several incidents of unwanted physical contact and a disparaging email, the records say.

Payne’s lawyer, Greg Skordas, said Monday that the reprimand is a problem, but it’s only part of Payne’s decorated 27-year record with the department.

Payne also faced a vehicle-chase complaint from the Utah Highway Patrol in 1995 that resulted in a two-week suspension without pay, according to the records. The documents didn’t details the complaint but said he violated the police code of ethics on cooperation with other officers and courtesy toward other agencies.

The detective’s discipline history was released in response to a public-records request from The Associated Press and other media outlets as multiple investigations into the July 26 arrest of nurse Alex Wubbels play out.

Her lawyers are looking into Payne’s history and how the city has dealt with prior incidents, said attorney Karra Porter. Wubbels hasn’t sued the city, though Porter has said that could change.

Payne handcuffed the nurse after she refused to allow blood to be drawn from an unconscious patient, citing hospital policy. The detective had support from his supervisor, Lt. James Tracy, who said Wubbels could be arrested if she didn’t allow the blood draw.

An investigation by a civilian review board found Payne had apparently become frustrated after a long wait to perform the blood draw and ignored the nurse’s correct explanation that she could not allow it without a warrant or formal consent from the patient, who had been in a car crash.

Salt Lake City police apologized for the arrest, changed their blood-draw policies and placed Payne and Tracy on paid administrative leave after the video from police body cameras drew widespread attention online.

An internal investigation found evidence that the officers violated several policies. Police Chief Mike Brown is now weighing possible punishment that could include firing.

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