Detective Jeff Payne has gained quite a bit of notoriety for his unlawful arrest of Nurse Alex Wubbels. He has been placed on leave by the Salt Lake City Police Department. He has also lost his part time job as a paramedic for Gold Cross Ambulance, a private firm that provides 911 ambulance service to Salt Lake City. It is my opinion that he should have never been employed by both Gold Cross and SLCPD at the same time, even if he had a spotless record as a police officer and a medic.
A medic′s first duty is to his patients. A police officer′s first duty is to uphold the law. Both are honorable goals, but it can create a conflict of interest when the same person works in both law enforcement and EMS. Patients share very personal information with medics, including their medical history and the circumstances behind their current emergency. A medic cannot ever share this information with any non-healthcare worker, not even with the police. This is very important, because if patients thought they could go to jail for what they say to a medic, they might withhold lifesaving information.
What happens if one of the paramedics who responds to your car accident happens to be a police officer? Would you feel comfortable telling him what medications you have been taking? Are you going to be honest about the number of drinks you had? Or are you going to refuse treatment altogether and just try to walk home?
Some police departments do hire paramedics to serve on the SWAT team so they can rescue and treat patients in a scene that is considered too dangerous for civilian EMS. This doesn′t create the same conflict of interest; a wounded suspect treated by a SWAT paramedic would know that they are talking to a police officer and would know to keep their mouth shut. But a police officer who wears a civilian medical uniform has access to patient information that Facebook and the CIA could only dream about. If there is a need for medics to accompany a SWAT team, they either should be outside of the police chain of command, or they should be barred from civilian ambulance services.
Judging from the video that we all saw, Detective Payne doesn′t strike me as the type of cop who respects a patient′s right to privacy. Even if a cop/medic obeyed HIPAA rules and respected the Bill of Rights, it could still look suspicious if a suspect or patient were arrested by their coworkers. Police officers should strive to avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing or a conflict of interest.
Normally, it would be commendable for a person to want to treat the sick and injured, but a patient′s right to privacy trumps a medic′s right to moonlight as a law enforcement officer. Any cop who wants to be a medic should turn in their badge, and concurrently, any medic who wants to be a police officer should hang up his stethoscope.