Emails obtained indicate the Salt Lake City police chief praised officers for their daily work after video of University of Utah nurse Alex Wubbels circulated in the media. Wubbels refused to provide police with a blood sample of an unconscious patient unable to consent to such a release.
Police body cam video was released on August 31 that showed Salt Lake City detective Jeff Payne roughing up and arresting Wubbels. Public furor followed, and internal and civilian review board investigations found that Payne violated numerous departmental policies. The civilian review board concluded he “very clearly lost control of his emotions.”
Shadowproof obtained documents under Utah’s open records law that provide details on the Salt Lake City Police Department’s (SLCPD) internal response to the incident. They consist of emails from SLCPD chief Mike Brown and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski.
Despite the broad public backlash against SLCPD, none of the emails released to Shadowproof show Chief Brown verbally reprimanding any officers, or even calling for reflection about how the hospital incident could have happened. (*Note: Shadowproof’s original request was for all emails sent from Chief Brown pertaining to the incident.)
Chief Brown apparently adopted a gentle, almost coddling tone, praising officers for all their hard work, instead of the stern diction typical of law enforcement.
An email sent from Chief Brown on September 1—the first day after the body cam video was released—has a subject line that states, “Good work today.” The message appears to be a department-wide email to an account called “PoliceALL@slcgov.com” and informs the recipients that a criminal investigation was launched in regards to the hospital incident. The message then states, “I know that each and every day amazing work is done by the women and men of this department to serve the citizens of Salt Lake City.”
The message goes on to extol the “phenomenal police work that is unfortunately overshadowed by other news in the media space; but is in no way less important to our reputation and caliber of work.”
The message closes by saying, “Thanks again for all you do.”
Another email sent from Chief Brown on the same day notes that complaints regarding the nurse incident should be sent to a referred to a separate telephone line from that of media. This email suggests SLPCD was receiving complaints within just hours of the body cam video’s release.
An email sent from Jennifer Seelig, Mayor Biskupski’s director of community empowerment states that Utah State Senator Jake Anderegg (R) “was getting calls from constituents about the situation.” The email also notes that Sen. Anderegg said “he wished that the officer in the video had been dealt with from an HR perspective more harshly.”
Mayor Biskupski personally replies to this message by thanking Seelig for her time.