- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2017


President Donald Trump just announced a return to the Pentagon 1033 program that gifts military cast-off equipment to local police departments.

But there’s a danger — a slippery slope — that comes with outfitting civil servant police officers with the best in tactical military gear, the deadliest in bazookas and sniper rifles, and it goes like this: Police are not combat soldiers. Training in them that mindset is not the way to go.

If anything demonstrates this danger, the case of a University of Utah Hospital nurse, Alex Wubbels — who was manhandled by a local law enforcement official, Detective Jeff Payne, after refusing his request, absent a warrant, to draw blood from an unconscious patient — certainly does.

Here’s the backstory.

In July, Wubbels was working as the charge nurse at this Utah facility, and was overseeing a patient who had been brought to her ward unconscious. The man had been involved in a collision that had left another person dead, and as such, police were involved. Payne, arriving at the hospital, at first requested Wubbels draw blood from the man. When she refused, citing both law and policy that make clear blood cannot be drawn from an individual without a warrant or without first receiving permission from that individual, Payne, who had neither, became much more demanding in tone — and ultimately, downright aggressive and physical.

Video that surfaced of the minutes-long standoff showed Payne ultimately handcuffing her and dragging her from the hospital as she screams, “Help, help. Somebody help me,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The video only surfaced in recent days, as part of Wubbels’ campaign to now let other hospitals know of the potential for similar situations.

“I wanted the rest of the nurses in the state I work in, in Utah, to know that this could happen,” she said, ABC News reported.

Wubbels’ particular hospital has already taken action, and put in place new policies that require police to stay away from patient care areas. Instead, if they need access to patient, they will have to first go through “house supervisors” and obtain their permission first.

Payne and his supervisor have been placed on paid leave, while higher-ups in the police department analyze the video and conduct an internal investigation.

But the law is clear on this — and not just in Utah. Police cannot draw blood without a warrant or without permission of the individual.

It’s not the military.

It’s the civilian world.

And when the line between the two cloud, civil rights are often the casualty.

It’s not that Payne was acting over-zealously because his department participates in the 1033 program.

It’s that Payne’s mindset at the time of incident with the nurse — whose prestigious past includes Olympic athletic competition — shows a cop out of control, an officer mired of a mindset that his badge gives him the right to do as he feels fit. And bestowing military gear on police fuels this mindset, this belief in one’s self as the arbiter of law — not the courts or Constitution.

This is the slippery slope that must be avoided. This is why 1033 is a program that must be monitored closely by local governments and boards, who have the power to dictate how police departments train with and use military cast-off equipment — and who can ultimately decide whether they’re behaving more like a Payne than they rightly should, than they’re legally allowed.

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