I’ve heard many takes on the “interaction” between the Salt Lake City police officer and the nurse. This post elaborates on a few ideas that deserve more attention:
1) When interpreting the scene, we can make different emphases or take various perspectives. But we are united by a respect for people’s rights, the rule of law, and the fair treatment of all, regardless of race, ethnicity, and gender. These themes should be true when we consider each of the parties involved: the patient, the hospital staff, the hospital administrators & policies, or the police.
2) Police officers serve the crucial role of law enforcement. But the more fundamental idea is not the law itself (which changes with time), but that the law reflects the values of society. And there is an established  process by which the law is formed & codified: the law is written by lawmakers, interpreted by the courts, and carried out by the executive. Police serve, therefore, under the direction of society and for its benefit (see figure).
Society and Law 3

Relationship between Society, Law, and the enforcement of law.
3) Three things–apparent in this video–debase the rule of law: the inappropriate use of force, the violation of rights, and the inequitable treatment of people. Those who do these things become a law unto themselves. Their fundamental motivation is neither the service of society nor the enforcement of its laws; rather, they abuse the power vested in them in the pursuit of what seems right to them in the moment.
4) It therefore follows that accountability to society is a good thing. One’s view on police accountability is not fundamentally an issue about being a civilian or being a public servant; about being a good cop or a bad cop; or about the perceived tension between shielding a coworker from exposure and following the law. Rather, one’s view on accountability reveals one’s perspective on the role of the police. One who balks at accountability is likely one with a tribal mentality who uses a rigid application of force in service to the written law. But a police officer who embraces accountability is one whose work is founded on the rule of law, a public servant who understands that law is for the people.
Robust accountability, then, elevates the role of the police by emphasizing both enforcement of law and service to society.  And the the police officers who are the most vocally supportive of accountability are likely the ones who hold the highest view of their role*. Accountability makes the institution stronger.
5) On a personal level, I see nurses daily exhibiting professional behavior, adhering to thoughtful policy & procedure, advocating for patients, and practicing with a compassion suffused with generosity and toil. And this must ring true for many: for everyone who has been cared for or had a family member cared for by a nurse. This feels personal, and rightly so.
6) But it also feels civil. No matter how guilty a person seems to be, his privacy and rights should be upheld as outlined by society. This is true, whether that person is conscious or unconscious. And it is especially true when that person is vulnerable as a patient. There is an established process for exploring the interaction between enforcement of law and privacy, and this process involves only a few things**: a) consent by the person, which is a voluntary suspension of rights, b) a change in legal status of the person (arrest) with credible reasons subject to review, and c) encroachment on those rights with the direct oversight of society via the courts (warrant). The nurse’s eloquent statement of these conditions was a powerful moment, demonstrating not just her professional values but also her civil ones.
7) To perceive a tension is normal, because that tension is both real and healthy. Medical professionals regularly walk this line of tension, because we care first for the person as patient: the one who suffers, the one who cannot care for himself, the one who needs our compassion and expertise. We do this whether the patient knows it or not, regardless of whatever expression of gratitude we receive. We do this because it represents an adherence to the norms and standards outlined by our profession. And despite the legitimate tensions, it is moral in its alignment of values, intentions, and actions.
8) An emotional response to the video is normal. Yes, swift condemnation serves a purpose and can set the tone. And it’s a good thing that the police are accountable to society at large. But it’s also a good thing that accountability is mediated by elected & appointed representatives. These representatives evaluate the situation with a cool head in order to see various perspectives and to resist the temptation to jump to conclusions. Wise decisions come with insight from many perspectives, with careful consideration, and with time for reflection.
* Drawing from my own experience in patient safety work, those who value patient safety the most are the ones who seek transparency and accountability. Evasion, obscuring details, and shielding oneself from oversight amount to unconcern for patient safety.
** To a legal layperson like myself, it seems these things should be true regardless of specific hospital policy or state law. Hospital policy should function in a practical way to help professionals apply legal principles to easily anticipated situations.

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