An Open Letter to Detective Jeff Payne – from a Nurse

by | Sep 5, 2017 | Nurse Life | 13 comments

an open letter to 1

Dear Detective Jeff Payne,

When I was scrolling through my Instagram feed after a day of moving to our new home, the last thing I expected to see was a nurse being chased and handcuffed.  The last thing I expected to hear was a nurse sobbing and screaming as she was pinned against a wall with her hands behind her back. It was pretty upsetting.

After I saw the video, I read multiple news articles about it.  I read the American Nurses Association’s official statement and the statements from Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Police Chief Mike Brown. I tried to understand this as best I could after I saw that body cam footage. I appreciated their responses in how they are dealing with this in multiple internal and external investigations, policy changes, and communications.

Despite this, I just couldn’t get my mind around why this happened in the first place.

Why was handling this situation in that manner even an option to you?  It honestly seemed pretty routine to you. That is what was scary to me about this.  

The way you conducted yourself was pretty alarming, despite the fact that your mayor stated she’s been working with the police department on de-escalation techniques.  You seemed to be the one who escalated, rather than being the one who would facilitate de-escalation.  

Like Alex, I am also a nurse. I tell people no all the time. I don’t do that just to make things harder for someone else, I do it because it’s expected of me in many circumstances.  I promise, it’s not a power trip… it’s just necessary sometimes.  Just because someone wants something… or thinks they have a right to something doesn’t mean they actually do. And many times, it falls to the nurse to not only come to that conclusion, but communicate it, and deal with whatever negative response that comes with it in an appropriate and professional manner.  

It’s important for me to explain to you the mindset behind a nurse caring for any patient, but particularly an unconscious trauma patient who was the victim of a crime.

As a nurse, sometimes I feel like a gatekeeper or a bodyguard for my patient.  If someone wants something from my patient… if physical therapy wants to work with them, if the lab wants to get some blood, if a visitor wants to see them… they’ve got to go through me first. By utilizing my nursing judgement, I determine if it’s safe, appropriate, necessary, and in this case, legal.

I feel like their protector.  And I love it.  I love being able to stand up and care for someone when they can’t do it for themselves. I know their rights as a patient and I am grateful to be in a position in which I can protect those rights.  It gives me honor to do this.  

What makes this situation so upsetting is that I never thought myself or a fellow nurse colleague could be in danger of being arrested while doing what gives me so much honor and joy. I can deal with upset family members, angry patients, and irritated visitors. 

What’s terrifying is when someone who is in a position of power, like a detective, tries to use their authority to scare someone into complying with their request… even if they don’t have the right to ascertain this request. How can one enforce the law if they don’t know the updated policy?

Calmly handcuffing someone and putting them in a squad car is one thing. Chasing after someone and pinning them against a wall while they’re sobbing is another. This wasn’t some irate, belligerent person resisting arrest. This was a professional nurse with their supervisor on the line, surrounded by support staff, in their place of work, calmly talking to you.

If this is an acceptable level of force to use in a situation like this to you, I cringe at the thought of the person who doesn’t have support around them, who is alone, who has done nothing wrong, with whom you are upset, yet has the right to refuse a request you’ve made…

Like law officers, policy is something which also guides a nurse’s practice.  We are all too familiar with the world of policies. Policies are updated for a reason.  It is your duty as a prudent officer of the law to know them.  

As I am sure you are aware, police officers are held to a higher standard. In moments of frustration, anger, disrespect, and so forth, you are expected to possess your soul. It is a minimal expectation for you, of all people, to be in control of your emotions. While being a nurse and a police officer are not one in the same, there is some common ground as trusted civil servants held to a higher standard, especially in the midst of incredibly intense moments. This was no exception. Regardless of how frustrated you may have been, the fact that you went there demonstrated a lack of your ability to maintain your composure, which is highly concerning.

I’d like to believe that this incident wasn’t just as simple as you’re a jerk and went on a power trip.  While that very well may be the case, there’s also the possibility that isn’t the entire story.  When I saw it I had to stop myself from jumping to conclusions. I’ve never met you. I don’t know you, your personality, your faults, your strengths, your tendencies.  However, once seeing that video, I saw a part of you.  And now, I have so many questions. While none of the below would justify what resulted, it would help me better understand your mindset and what led up to this incident. I believe knowing these answers is essential to preventing this from happening again with yourself or colleagues when in similar circumstances. 

  • Were you already having a rough day before you got the call about the accident you had to investigate?
  • Was your supervisor pressuring you for the blood, and get it quickly?
  • Were you frustrated with how long it was taking you to get the blood?
  • Did you have any hesitancy or desire to explore why you were receiving such resistance from the nurse and facility? Did you care why?
  • Do you think they hospital wanted to comply with the law?
  • Practically speaking, how are you informed about policy changes?
  • Have you ever had to obtain blood from an unconscious patient who cannot give consent?
  • How do you, as an officer of the law, mentally and emotionally process frustrating situations in which you must maintain your composure?
  • When you made the decision to arrest, why did you immediately put your hands on the nurse rather than asking her to turn around and place her hands behind her back?
  • Is this how you were trained to deal with situations like this?
  • Have you ever escalated like this before?
  • If so, have you ever been reprimanded for it?

I just want to make sure you know also why this is so scary to the public and the nursing community. It’s not just a mistake at work, a misread policy, a lack of understanding that you can just move past and get back to work.  

You terrified that nurse. You terrified the public.

This is the opposite of what should happen with law enforcement. We’re supposed to trust you to do the right thing, to de-escalate, to maintain composure. This shattered that trust for many… and many who already have distrust in law enforcement just saw a detective terrify a nurse at work who was doing the right thing.

I think people assume officers of the law never respond to a frustrating situation with anger. Again, as someone who also deals with frustrating situations out of my control, I can get how things can go downhill quickly. I’m not naive enough to assume police never lose their cool. But the response shouldn’t be silence, it should be professional accountability. This is how change happens – when someone messes up, they make themselves an example of how mistakes should be handled. If you lost your cool and know you messed up, own it and apologize. This is how culture change occurs. I think what frustrates people is when someone in law enforcement does mess up, there is never a sincere apology or standing up to take accountability. It’s an official statement, administrative leave, and that’s that.  A genuine, sincere apology in which it is painfully clear that you accept the responsibility for your actions and are disappointed with yourself in how you handled this, coming from your voice alone, would speak volumes.

Maybe you’re not sorry. Maybe this isn’t a big deal to you.  I just need you to know that this is a big deal. This is a big deal to the public – and this is a big deal to the nursing community. There should be a collegiality between law enforcement and nurses and it feels like you grossly violated that.  Just as you would trust us to care for a fellow officer injured on the job, we trust you to know and protect our rights and the rights of our patients. Gaining that back after seeing this footage feels like an uphill battle. 

I’m hoping that whatever inside of you that caused you to respond in this manner is explored if you begin working again.  I’m hoping that this incident will cause the police department to evaluate if others act similarly and work to change the culture from the inside out.  I’m hoping this isn’t just a pause in work for you for an investigation to occur that you don’t believe is necessary, but a time for deep reflection, self-evaluation, sincerity, and humility.  

There is a real opportunity here for law enforcement and nursing to come together and demonstrate the respect we should have for one another and the value we place on our duty to serve the public. Please do not miss it.

Sincerely,

Kati Kleber, RN

109A6790 3

 

 

 

If you want more background about the situation discuss above, this article from The Washington Post has a thorough summary.

To learn more about Kati, please visit KatiKleber.com.

Picture of Kati Kleber, founder of FRESHRN

Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

Connect with her on YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and sign-up for her free email newsletter for new nurses.

13 Comments

  1. Diane

    Kati,
    As a fellow RN, I thank you so much for writing this eloquent letter. You looked at the situation from all angles and responded with fairness, assertiveness, and passion.

    Reply
    • Kati Kleber

      Thank you so much Diane! I’ve been mulling it over for a few days, trying to wrap my mind around it all.

      Reply
  2. Joe Niemczura,RN, MS

    It’s taken me a couple of days to write as well. I’m speechless. This was a crime.

    Reply
  3. Tracy Lloyd

    Thanks Kati! You are SO good at writing things we want to say but can’t get it on paper like you can! You nailed it from every aspect.

    Reply
  4. Peggy

    Kati,
    Thank you, beautifully said!

    Reply
  5. Old Fool RN

    Police officers are under stress on steroids and have seen injustices that would bring anyone to their knees. Usually they are just trying to make sure the injustices are mitigated.

    When a detective would storm up to the OR doors and demand to see a bullet removed from a patient in surgery to maintain a chain of custody I always said “sure thing I’ll get you some scrubs,” even though it was against policy. They almost always demurred and told me to just bring the bullet to the door.

    Nurses in critical situations interact with cops all the time and it’s in your best interest to accommodate their requests. Advocating for patients is a nurses duty but in police involved situations, the nurse never knows the complete story.

    Reply
    • Tracy

      I understand thst the piluce are stressed and face diffucult situations evt.. but that doesnt given them the right to circumvent the law. If she complied she would be breaking the law. She called her nurse manager for verification. I wouldn’t accommodate them just because they said so.- not when they’re going against the law.

      Reply
      • Old Fool RN

        Hospital policy is not the equivalent of criminal law or civil statutes. Some nurses think of the hospital as a bubble where policy equates to law. That’s just plain wrongheaded thinking. How could the police officer be expected to know the company or hospital policy with every entity he interacted? It’s just not reasonable. Police act on the basis of law, not the whim of a hospital supervisor.

        Since this patient was admitted unconscious, blood work would seem to be required regardless what a police officer requested. What’s the harm in drawing an extra red top tube to shed light on the situation? Nurses and police both want to get to the bottom of the situation.

        There is no excuse for the way the nurse was treated but I think some reasonable communication could have resolved the issue. Maybe both sides could come together for the patient’s good.

        I should probably stay out of these contemporary, hot button issues, but like most old school nurses, I can’t always stop shooting of my mouth!

        Reply
        • Another Old Fool

          Because to draw blood from an unconscious patient without a warrant or permission from a person authorized to give that permission for the patient such as next of kin is battery, regardless of the circumstances. The results of the test would be inadmissible.

          Reply
        • Cat

          This is just said beautifully! Thank you!! Hospital policy rubbing against the law. This never would have escalates has SHE not Resisted. SHE caused the escalation and waswarned. SHE made this a bigger situation than it needed to be.

          Reply
  6. Dr Colin Bryant

    As a physician, I was also horrified that a nurse, acting in accordance with the law, was violently assaulted and kidnapped (look up the statutes, both felonies in Utah) by an officer peeved that she placed the law above his whims. It’s shocking to me that some of the commenters here do not respect the rule of law or the safety of patients. When Nurse Wubbels asked the university police for help, they pointedly refused and the university police chief has also refused to do his job. The mayor and SLC police chief kept this under wraps for a month and took only a token step of suspending Payne from the blood draw program once it came to light. The fact that the watch commander ordered this is even more shocking. The FBI investigation is going to show what everyone in SLC has long known, that the PD is corrupt and lawless. Although Detective Payne and Lt. Tracy will certainly go to jail, the chiefs and the mayor should also.

    Reply
  7. bobbie

    AMEN, AMEN, AMEN. You have spoken with eloquence and compassion in this post, sayting what so many of us have felt.

    Nurse Wubbels = Rosa Parks

    I too hope Payne and Tracy are fired/serve time for their assault & battery.

    Reply
  8. Cat

    Looks t this the nurse was NON compliant arrest. Resisting arrest, weather any person feels it is right or wrong resisting arest is illeagl.so YES the nurse may have been right. HOWEVER she had NO ABSOLUTELY NO right to resist arrest. Her running away and screaming and fighting a officer is illegal and unlawful. SHE put everyone e there at risk and SHE put up a fight. ALL officers are REQUIRED to uses nessacary force to make the arrest. Had She NOT resisted and fought back this never would of escalated. The officer was given a job, if was was not hospital policy to comply that is one thing. Is is NEVER okay for ANY person regardless of the situation to resist arrest. I DON’T care who you are or the situation resisting arrest put the person and ALL others around them at risk. Both the nurse and the officer were I the wrong. You all need to look at this as a civil matter that it was SHE put herself all all those people around her at risk. SHE WAS VERY selfish in that. He was NOT going to hurt her and DID NOT hurt anything but her ego.

    Reply

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