Here’s the text of the resolution, along with my running commentary , on last week’s City Council agenda regarding the possibility of Austin police officers - instead of registered nurses or otherwise medically qualified and trained personnel - collecting blood specimens from DWI suspects:
WHEREAS, the State of Texas allows peace officers to collect breath and blood specimens as evidence for prosecuting people suspected of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated through Texas Transportation Code §724.012, and Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 18.01; and
Since there’s already an implied consent statute, and a law governing search warrants…
WHEREAS, Austin’s police force consists of highly trained law enforcement professionals whose compensation is commensurate with the specialized public safety service they provide; and
This is harder for me to translate. Maybe something on the order of: the police are already well paid for the job they have been taught to do…
WHEREAS, the safe collection of blood specimens requires separate specialized public health training and ongoing yearly medical education in order to ensure healthy and accurate phlebotomy; and
Cops are cops not phlebotomists. And a few hours of “training” them to stab people with needles won’t change that.
WHEREAS, such training is geared for clinical health technicians consistently practicing phlebotomy on a daily basis in a controlled public health setting with emergency health services close at hand;
Four or eight or twenty four hours worth of “classes” isn’t enough to properly teach police officers how to draw blood safely…
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF AUSTIN: In order to protect the health and safety of officers and suspects, the City Manager is hereby directed to bar Austin Police Department officers from conducting phlebotomies.
Don’t Do It! Make sure Austin Police officers are not allowed to stab suspects, make the nurses do it. Period.
It was a great resolution, but instead of passing, there was some big fake brouhaha instigated by the City Attorney about how the resolution would conflict with state law because officers are required to “use all lawful means” to enforce the law. From the Statesman:
Austin city council members, in a unanimous vote, approved a resolution today that said it is their “clear will” and the community’s desire that police officers not personally collect blood from drunken driving suspects — an idea Police Chief Art Acevedo had floated for months.
The resolution stopped short of directing City Manager Marc Ott to ban such draws, which had been the original proposal by council members Bill Spelman and Laura Morrison and Mayor Lee Leffingwell.
First and foremost, it is indeed clearly “the will of the people of Austin” that police not forcibly take blood samples from suspects. I have no doubt of that. But not passing the resolution as originally written shows the Council to be out of touch, or perhaps just easily bullied by the Police Department.
Besides, if they “can’t” pass a resolution banning the police from sticking the needles in themselves, because that would “conflict with state law”, why is it kosher to express an opinion that would conflict with that same non-existent law?