Friday, September 1, 2017

Body Language Analysis No. 4049: The Arrest of University Hospital Nurse Alex Wubbels - Nonverbal and Emotional Intelligence (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

On 26 July 2017, Salt Lake City Police Detective Jeff Payne arrested Alex Wubbels, a Nurse at the University of Utah Hospital's Burn Unit. The video featured above has gone viral. Another lengthier version of the incident, recorded from a different view is included immediately below.

The police wanted to draw a blood sample from a patient who had been in a motor vehicle accident. This patient was unconscious (thus, by definition, patient consent was not possible), the patient was not under arrest, and there was no warrant (electronic or otherwise). These requirements (as per hospital policy and the law) were calmly conveyed (via speech and in writing) by Ms. Wubbels to the police officers.

Here is a portion of their dialog:

NURSE ALEX WUBBELS: Brad, I'm just putting you on speaker so you can. So, I have the, it says, "Obtaining blood samples for police enforcement from patients suspected to be under the influence", Okay? This is something that you guys agreed to with this hospital.

The three things that allow us to do that are if you have an electronic warrant, patient consent, or patient under arrest - and neither of those things - patient can't.

The patient can’t consent, he’s (Officer Payne) told me repeatedly that he doesn’t have a warrant, and the patient is not under arrest. So I’m just trying to do what I’m supposed to do - that’s all, so.” *

OFFICER JEFF PAYNE: Okay, So I take it without those in place, I’m not going to get blood? Is that - am, am I fair to surmise that?

NURSING SUPERVISOR [via speaker phone]: Alex, you're not [inaudible]


OFFICER JEFF PAYNE: Okay [over-talking]

NURSING SUPERVISOR [via speaker phone]: Why is he continuing to blame you?

NURSE ALEX WUBBELS [over-talking]: I don't know. I have no idea why he's blaming me. I'm just referencing

NURSING SUPERVISOR [over-talking, via speaker phone]: Why are you blaming the messenger, Sir?

OFFICER JEFF PAYNE: She’s the one that has told me "no".

NURSING SUPERVISOR [via speaker phone]: Yeah but Sir, you’re making a huge mistake right now, like, like, you're making a huge mistake 'cause you’re threatening a nurse [inaudible] ...

OFFICER JEFF PAYNE: Okay. No, we're done. We're, we're done! You're under arrest! [inaudible] We're done!....

NURSE ALEX WUBBELS: No! No! Somebody Help me! Stop!

Screaming and yelling follows as Officer Payne grabs Alex Wubbels by the under her arms from behind and shoves her through the [automatic] doors to the outside the building where he then handcuffs her and takes her to a police vehicle.

From a body language perspective, the video is fairly limited. We have very minimal facial video of Officer Payne (in the second video). Omitting the physicality and violence associated with the arrest, and concentrating on the preceding events, there are few valuable nonverbal teaching moments, some of which are discussed here.

The image above is from 1:05 in the first video, just as Officer Payne says, "She’s the one that has told me 'no' ".

You'll note Nurse Alex Wubbels' abdomen, torso, head (and with high probability, her feet too) are not pointing at Officer Payne (his body camera is recording this video). Only her eyes are turned to meet him/his face. Human beings have a strong tendency to NOT look directly (e.g., not "whole body point") at people whom we:
  • Don't like
  • Don't respect
  • Don't trust

If we go back a few seconds to 0:41 (also in the first video, just after she says, "I’m just trying to do what I’m supposed to do - that’s all, so" and as Officer Payne says "... Okay, so I take it ..."), we can see Nurse Wubbels just after she momentarily turned toward Officer Payne. She immediately turned her torso and head away while maintaining eye contact. Nuancing her facial expression further, we can see her:
  • Upper eyelids open widely
  • Lower eyelids tense
  • Flared Nostrils
  • Central Forehead Contracted
  • Eyebrows lowered
Although not fully expressed, Nurse Wubbels is displaying a face of fear (this was also expressed, but more subtly, in the first image).

In the second video, during 5:43 - 5:45, as Officer Payne says, "Okay, So I take it without those in place, I’m not going to get blood?", he is seen grabbing his own right wrist with his left hand as he gestures with his right hand in a palm-down fashion (this image was captured during 5:44 as he says "... without ...").

Gesturing with one's palm oriented downward carries an alpha emotional tone - and the added rapid oscillation elevates it to a hyper-alpha level. It's gesture of power and authority. A person using palm down-gestures has his mind made up. He cannot be reasoned with - for he's far from his emotional baseline.

The gripping of his own wrist here portends the violence which is about to occur. Officer Payne's attempt at self-control and his growing frustration with Nurse Wubbels is momentarily displayed with his own wrist acting as a temporary surrogate for her.

Update: Although Nurse Alex Wubbels was assaulted, told she was under arrest, handcuffed, held against her will, and prevented from doing her job (all in front of her co-workers) - she was kept on hospital grounds and released that evening without arrest. Officer Jeff Payne remains on duty but has been removed from the field and has been taken off the police department's Phlebotomy unit. There are both ongoing civilian as well as an internal police investigation regarding this incident.

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See also:

Body Language Analysis No. 4048: Lady Di - Ambassador of Empathy

Body Language Analysis No. 4046: Melania Trump, Hurricane Harvey, and "Destroying Empathy 101"

Body Language Analysis No. 4044: Kim Jong-un's Choreography

Body Language Analysis No. 4042: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor - Official Weigh-in

Body Language Analysis No. 4037: Charlottesville Protester Quits Boston University after Death Threats

Body Language Analysis No. 4011: Anthony Scaramucci's First UK Interview

Body Language Analysis No. 3977: Anthony Kennedy - One Signal You Never Want to See From a Judge During Your Testimony

Body Language Analysis No. 3958: Vladimir Putin interview with Megyn Kelly

Body Language Analysis No. 3943: Donald Trump hugs James Comey