Nomination for Hero Badge

Not All Train Wrecks Happen on Tracks

Here we go again. In the midst of three ring circus with a fat lady singing in the background, the howling mob demands immediate gratification facts be damned. Protestors-demand-cop-be-fired-for-arresting-nurse-doing-her-job.

How many ways can we pull a screw up out of the hat? We have Salt Lake City PD policy, we have hospital policy, we have University policy (apparently the hospital is a teaching hospital) and we have the policy of the Police Department where the hospital is located. I have read three stories where policies from each of the entities were cited without distinction. Did I mention there is also state and federal law?

I worked narcotics for fifteen years, on more than one occasion I had a situation where a suspect swallowed drugs. I had probable cause and reason to believe that the suspect was in possession of a controlled substance. I liked the challenge of drafting search warrants documenting unique circumstances. I never once had a twitch or inclination to travel down the medico legal path to recover evidence. The potential pay off in recovered evidence was just not worth the effort of dealing with competing bureacracies

In general, the nurse is correct; a search warrant is required to obtain blood for an alcohol/drug screening. Some jurisdictions have tried to justify blood draw without a warrant based on “exigent circumstances.” The effort has met with mixed results. The time to decide if that course is acceptable to the hospital and police administration is ten in the morning when the respective administrations can decide whether to reconcile their policies, not two in the morning. The only thing more hard headed than a cop is an RN protecting her turf. There is a reason cops and nurses get along so well, most times. Pushing for a warrantless blood draw, late at night, was rightfully doomed to failure. (Nurse 1, Cop 0.)

The reality is that the hospital had, in all likelihood, drawn blood for a tox screen as part of their treatment plan. Those results could be made available to police and prosecutors via a trial or grand jury subpoena.

Texas law allows a peace officer to arrest a person who resists arrest or search. The arrest includes bystanders who interfere. Had the cop had a warrant, he would have had a clear cut reason for arresting the nurse. I have used this threat several times, and it works. When you serve search warrants for banks accounts, management almost always refuses. But once the law is explained to them, they give you coffee and cooperation. A person is not allowed to contest the legality of a search, at the time of the search (resist). Technically the Cop was justified in making the arrest. (Cop 1, Nurse 0.)

One article I read tried to drag the University Police and City Police in whose jurisdiction the hospital was located. The writers cited policy violations on the part of the Salt Lake Cop. Each department operates under its policy. That policy affects only members of that department. The only thing binding the three entities together is state law. The Slat Lake Cop may have had State Law on his side. The fact that the nurse was arrested and held for twenty minutes, but not booked indicates to me that somebody intervened on her behalf. Twenty minutes is just about right for patrol sergeants to get together and apply the quick fix in the field.

This whole incident arose out of a fatal car accident. The Salt Lake Detective was conducting the follow-up investigation and was certified to draw blood. This signifies to me that he was probably assigned to the traffic unit. As I always say, “Traffic Investigation is very important, it gives stupid cops something to do.”