Salt Lake City Police Department Code of Ethics

Utah residents have certain expectations from the Salt Lake City Police Department which can include: detecting and preventing criminal activity; answering calls from the public for assistance; and upholding their code of ethics when handling
any situation put before them.

Police conduct in question

Photo by: Dave Conner

A video was recently released showing a July incident involving a Salt Lake City police detective roughly and incorrectly handling a situation with a nurse from the University of Utah hospital. Detective Payne and officers with the Salt Lake Police Department arrived at the hospital, requesting a blood draw from Idaho reserve officer and truck driver William Gray, an innocent victim hurt by a suspect in a high speed chase. After speaking via phone to her supervisor, nurse Alex Wubbels calmly informed Detective Payne that pulling a blood sample from unconscious Gray was unethical, and violated the patient’s Fourth Amendment rights as well as hospital policy. She presented documentation that for police to obtain a blood draw from a patient, they must have either:

• Consent from the patient;
• A warrant from a judge; or
• Have already placed the patient under arrest.

After becoming visibly upset, Detective Payne forcefully removed the nurse from the hospital in handcuffs before placing her in his vehicle.

Protecting citizens from other officers

While Detective Payne’s actions were undoubtedly excessive and troubling, so was the inaction of other officers on scene. Multiple officers were seen present on the video of Payne and Wubbels confrontation however none of those officers stepped in when Payne had noticeably crossed the line and admit shouts of “help me” and “why is this happening” from scared and confused Wubbels. More troubling is why nothing was done within the department until after the video was shared more than a month later. What should Utah residents expect from police and did nurse Wubbels receive treatment from Payne and the police department that was in line with their posted Code of Ethics?

Salt Lake City Police Department Code of Ethics

Photo by: Mesa0789

According to the Salt Lake City Police Department Policies and Procedures Manual is a copy of the Constitution followed closely by the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics. This section states that “All law enforcement officers must be fully aware of the ethical responsibilities of their position and must strive constantly to live up to the highest possible standards of professional policing.” The Code of Ethics lists several areas in which they are to uphold these standards. These include: “Responsibilities of a Police Officer; Performance of the Duties of a Police Officer; Discretion; Use of Force; Confidentiality; Integrity; Cooperation with Other officers and Agencies; Personal/Professional Capabilities; and Private Life.

Violation of the Code of Ethics

Some of these “ethical mandates” above do not appear to be portrayed by any members of the police department present during the incident that took place at the University of Utah Hospital. These include:

Responsibilities of a Police officer. The first section of the Code of Ethics state “A police officer acts as an official representative of government who is required and trusted to work within the law. ( . . . ) The fundamental duties of a police officer include serving the community, safeguarding lives and property; protecting the innocent; keeping the peace; and ensuring the rights of all to liberty, equality and justice.”

Performance of the Duties of a Police Officer. According to the next section, “All citizens will be treated equally with courtesy, consideration and dignity. ( . . . ) Laws will be enforced appropriately and courteously and, in carrying out their responsibilities, officers will strive to obtain maximum cooperation from the public. They will conduct themselves in ( . . . ) such a manner as to inspire confidence and respect of the position of public trust they hold.”

Use of Force. Another section of the Code of Ethics explains that “[a] police officer will never employ unnecessary force or violence and will use only such force in the discharge of duty as is reasonable in all circumstances. Force should be used only with the greatest restraint and only after discussion, negotiation and persuasion have been found to be inappropriate or ineffective. While the use of force is occasionally unavoidable, every police officer will refrain from applying the unnecessary infliction of pain or suffering and will never engage in cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment of any person.”

Victims of police force

Nurse Wubbels was an innocent party to the incident at the hospital who was trying to keep the peace herself while protecting another innocent person- her patient William Gray. Not only was Detective Payne uncourteous in his performance, degrading Wubbels in front of her coworkers and other patients while using unnecessary force, the other officers on scene did nothing to protect her or her patient’s rights from Payne’s outrageous behavior. While unfortunate, this scene should encourage the department to increase their training regarding working with health care employees and treating citizens professionally and civilly.