I’ve posted in the recent past about the growing practice of allowing police to forcefully draw blood themselves from citizens suspected of drunk driving. See Blood Draws in the Back Seat by the Dashboard Light, Forced Blood Draws by Cops Spreading , Would You Want a Cop Taking Blood from You? and Forced Blood Draws: Citizen Backlash?
Despite the frightening realities of having cops jamming needles into squirming suspects handcuffed in the back seats of police cars, the overriding concern is saving the time and money expended on using nurses or licensed technicians at a medical facility.
It would seem that perhaps the citizenry is finally saying "Enough"…
City Council Forum Draws Heated Debate
Police chief defends plan to train officers to draw blood from drunken-driving suspects
Austin, TX. Mar. 31 …(A)bout 200 civil-rights advocates and other citizens…came to Monday evening’s public forum to question Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo about his plan to train officers to obtain blood samples from suspected drunken drivers.
“We have to use whatever tools are available to us — and legal — to keep people safe,” Acevedo told a jeering audience that packed the City Council chamber and overflowed into the lobby.
Both the plan and the forum were prompted by the latest development in the Austin Police Department’s controversial practice of requiring drunken-driving suspects who refuse a Breathalyzer test to give a blood sample…
Texas law requires the samples to be a taken by medical personnel or a “qualified technician,” so officers must take suspects to hospital emergency rooms and have a nurse collect the evidence.
But hospitals want out of the deal, Acevedo said. They say their staff does not have the time and cannot afford the legal risk of improperly declaring a suspect drunk.
Acevedo said the city could not afford the seven full-time phlebotomists it would need to take blood samples if hospitals stopped cooperating.
At the forum, Acevedo urged City Council and the public to let Austin police take part in a federal pilot program that would train officers to draw suspects’ blood themselves.
The police chief’s arguments did not satisfy critical audience members who lined up behind a microphone to grill him. The line only grew as the debate approached its scheduled end, ultimately continuing for an extra half hour.
At some points, the audience’s excitement overwhelmed the forum’s organizers. The moderator and an assistant tried for several minutes to remove one man from the microphone as he accused police of having “blood lust” and the audience chanted, “Let him talk!”
“Do you think free people in this country are going to submit to a gang of thugs?” the man asked a weary-looking Acevedo.
“If the hospitals don’t want to do it, then why should the police be doing it?” asked Jim Harrington, a UT School of Law adjunct professor who plans to help draft a City Council resolution to explicitly prohibit police officers from taking blood samples.
State Rep. Sylvester Turner has also submitted a bill to the Legislature that would ban police from taking the samples themselves…
John Bush, a panelist and the executive director of Texans for Accountable Government, was applauded as frequently as the police chief was shouted down as he attacked the training plan as “impractical and of questionable constitutionality.”
“I do not feel that any amount of training would be sufficient for an officer to take blood from a resident of Austin,” Bush said as the audience — which included several members of his group — roared with approval.
“We’re talking about police officers. They’re not necessarily known for being the most genteel creatures,” said Debbie Russell, president of the ACLU’s Central Texas chapter, to audience laughter as Acevedo smiled and took a drink of water…
The five-member panel also included Councilman Mike Martinez, who won cheers for opposing the training program, and Karen Housewright, the executive director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s Texas chapter and Acevedo’s only solid ally on the panel.
Has the worm finally turned? Are Americans finally waking up to the MADDness?
(Thanks to Jeanne Pruett and RIDL)