Salt Lake mayor: "Unfortunate perception" that we weren't going to handle nurse arrest "appropriately"

Perceptions are often reality, and in this case maybe even more so. The two detectives who arrested a Salt Lake City nurse for following the law will likely face disciplinary action after two separate reviews found numerous violations of police guidelines on ethics and conduct. The findings will allow the police department to initiate action while the district attorney weighs prosecution on criminal charges, and Alex Wubbels and her attorney consider their options in civil court:

The Salt Lake Tribune notes that the findings come from both an Internal Affairs investigation and a civilian oversight board, which largely agree with one another. Note, though, that both steered far clear of any findings on whether or not the actions of Jeff Payne and James Tracy cross over into criminal conduct:

An internal affairs investigation into two Salt Lake City police officers involved in the arrest of a University Hospital nurse has found several department policies were violated during the July 26 confrontation.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski announced the investigation findings Wednesday in a news conference at City Hall. In addition, she discussed a recently-completed review by the city’s independent Police Civilian Review Board, which also found the officers violated department policies. …

Full internal affairs reports on Payne and Tracy, obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune through a public records request, found both officers violated five policies: conduct unbecoming of an officer; courtesy in public contacts; a policy that states misdemeanor citations should be used instead of arrest ”whenever possible”; violation of the department’s law enforcement code of ethics; and a city-mandated standards of conduct policy.

Biskupski told reporters in a press conference yesterday that Wubbels would have gotten justice whether or not the video went public in the way it did. “Many in the public have the unfortunate perception,” Biskupski declared, “that this incident would not have been handled appropriately had it not been for the release of the video by Ms. Wubbels’ attorney last week, or two weeks ago. This is not true,” Biskupski declared. “The police department initiated investigations immediately, and took steps the next day to work with Ms. Wubbels and the University of Utah Medical Center.”

That seems a little tough to credit, however. Biskupski admitted at the start that she hadn’t seen the video of the arrest until August 31, when Wubbels’ attorney released it to the public. The police and the city — and for that matter, the university — didn’t take any significant action until the story went viral, a point that Biskupski conceded in her statement, noting that the “scope” of the issue hadn’t been realized until then. Only after the video went public did the police department suspend the officers involved. That lack of action, and the apparent lack of concern over the “scope” of the incident, is likely what prompted the release of the video. Many in the Salt Lake area have the “unfortunate perception” that the city would have let it slide, but the “unfortunate” part of that is that it seems to be an accurate perception.

Now, of course, Biskupski and the police department are all over it, for both substantial and public-relations reasons. With these findings in hand, the two police officers who conducted this arrest will likely not get a chance to make any others in the future. They’ll be lucky to avoid prosecution, but there’s almost no chance that they’ll avoid Wubbels and her attorney in civil court.