Internal investigations ‘sustain findings’ against two officers in arrest of Utah nurse Alex Wubbels

SALT LAKE CITY -- Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski announced Wednesday that a pair of internal investigations into the arrest of Utah nurse Alex Wubbels have concluded, and both panels have "sustained findings" against the two officers directly involved in the arrest.

Biskupski said now that the Internal Affairs investigation has concluded, state law and existing contracts stipulate that both officers have up to 20 days to respond to the findings before Police Chief Mike Brown makes a decision on the officers' employment status.

The mayor opened Wednesday's press conference with an apology.

"I also want to start by once again reiterating my personal apology to Nurse Alex Wubbels for the way she was treated by officers of the Salt Lake City Police Department as she attempted to do her job, advocating for a patient," she said.

Biskupski said an Internal Affairs investigation into the arrest began the day after on July 27. A second, independent Civilian Review Board investigation began on September 1, after the release of video of the arrest on August 31.

Both investigations were based on interviews with two of the officers who were directly involved, Det. Jeff Payne and Lt. James Tracy; a third officer who witnessed the incident and nurse Wubbels. They also reviewed footage from three officer's body cameras.

The videos show nurse Alex Wubbels being arrested by Det. Jeff Payne after Wubbels refused to allow a blood draw on an unconscious patient without following established procedure.

The video of the arrest prompted nationwide outcry, and both officers were placed on leave after Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill opened a criminal investigation into the incident. Payne has also been fired from his part-time job as a paramedic. 

The Internal Affairs investigation sustained findings regarding several possible policy violations, Biskupski said: Conduct unbecoming by a police employee, courtesy in public context, policies regarding misdemeanor arrests, situations requiring a report, the department's law enforcement code of ethics, and the city policy regarding standards of conduct for employees.

The Civilian Review Board panel was led by investigator Rick Rasmussen, who Biskupski said is a 22-year veteran of the FBI who works for the city's human resources department, not the police department.

The review board also voted to sustain findings against the two officers, and Biskupski said a redacted version of that report will be made available online. Click here for that report. 

Biskupksi said she has asked Chief Brown not to make any public statements regarding the findings of the two reviews until he has received responses from both officers. The officers have up to 20 days to respond, as stipulated by state law and existing contracts.

Independent of these reviews, the criminal investigation by the DA's Office continues.

Biskupski said she is not making any recommendations on the employment status of the two officers, and instead will leave that decision up to Chief Brown.

"I want to make sure our process can stand up to legal scrutiny, and therefore I'm not putting my finger on the scale," Biskupski said, adding that she doesn't want Brown to feel pressured as he makes his decision.

She said getting involved in that decision could potentially create a "legal issue".

The full press conference can be viewed below: