The Will Of The People

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?
 

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kameshel - September 7, 2011 2:05 PM

I was recently prosecuted and taken in for a public intoxication charge. I worked very long hours the day before and stayed out late with a friend who was drinking. I also had one drink around 8pm. Once we parted ways I became sleepy and pulled over on the road because I suffer from narcolepsy and had been without my medication for a few days. I explained this to the officers when they pulled me out of the car for a sobriety test but they would not listen, further I had on 5 inch heels and as i was being pulled out of the vehicle one of my shoes came off. This impaired the test and i asked the officer if i could remove my shoe or I explained the circumstances and my medical condition and as the test was administered the officer said that i was borderline. I then requested a breath test to show that i was not intoxicated...they refused and became argumentative. I, stupidly made the response of someone using common sense and not waste taxpayers dollars because everyone could tell that I was not intoxicated (8 officers present. One laughed at my comment and I gave him an ugly stare. They tossed my truck for 20 minutes and found the open container that my friend had. I admitted as i had earlier that I did have one drink and that my passenger was drinking. Needless to say I was taken in on a pi charge and bailed out 1½ days later. I plead not guilty because i was not guilty. I thought i was being taken down for the open container and later found out it was for both the pi charge and an open container. I also asked the officers the entire way down (20min from where they found me) what was my charge???Needless to say no response. How can I beat this phony charge and I have been thinking about writing his supervisor. They are suppose to be peace officers and at no time was i disrespectful or belligerent. I was taken down simply because of my comments. This is not right.

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