Fox 7 news covers the “No Refusal” weekend of Halloween ’09 and Texans for Accountable Government’s (tagtexas.org) “Stop Vampire Protest” as well as our community solutions in Square Patrol (“squarepatrol.org”)
Friday and Saturday No-Refusal Weekend
Austin, TX (myFOXaustin.com) – APD will enforce a No-Refusal DWI Initiative during Halloween weekend. The initiative will begin this Friday, October 30 from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. and then on Saturday, October 31 from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m.
The DWI initiative is an effort to enforce DWI laws, keep the public safe, and to conduct blood search warrants on suspects who refuse to give a breath or blood specimen as required by law. This includes new DWI laws that recently went into effect starting September 1, 2009. A high number of DWI arrests are made in Austin each year. Approximately half of last years traffic fatalities were alcohol related.
The last time APD had a No-Refusal weekend was Labor Day weekend and they made twenty six DWI arrests during the No Refusal initiative. Nine individuals refused to give a sample of their breath or blood. After a judge signed a search warrant all 9 individuals had their blood drawn without incident.
10/22/2009 4:01 PM
By: News 8 Austin Staff
The Austin Police Department can still draw blood if drivers refuse a field sobriety test.
What was supposed to be an ordinance banning police officers from taking blood turned into a resolution asking the city manager to develop clear guidelines for the collection of blood.
Earlier this week, the city’s law staff informed council they believe banning officers from taking blood would be a violation of state law.
The law in question is one that requires police officers to do everything in their power to enforce the law, including collecting evidence.
Since starting blood draws, APD has used a phlebotomist at the Travis County Jail and hospital staff to collect the blood, but Austin’s police chief said the Travis County Sheriff’s Office got out of the blood draw business, and hospitals refused to draw blood.
Members of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is against blood draws all together, are somewhat happy with the council’s decision because it will create guidelines and allow the public safety commission to make recommendations.
City Manager Marc Ott will bring his recommendations back to council on or before Feb. 19.
Measure is toned-down version of earlier draft that could conflict with state statutes, which require officers to use “all lawful means” to enforce drunken driving laws.
By Tony Plohetski (AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF)
Friday, October 23, 2009
Backing down from a more stringent measure, Austin City Council members Thursday approved a resolution saying it is their “clear will” that police officers not personally collect blood from people suspected of driving while intoxicated.
Council members had been set to vote on a proposal that would have directed City Manager Marc Ott to block officers from gathering such samples, but the council backed off that plan at the urging of city lawyers who said the measure could run afoul of state law.
The original proposal had been sponsored by Council Members Bill Spelman and Laura Morrison and Mayor Lee Leffingwell.
During Thursday’s meeting, police leaders told the council that they have abandoned plans to train a group of officers to act as phlebotomists.
“We have not trained anybody, nor are we currently training anyone” to collect blood, said Assistant Police Chief David Carter, who is the department’s chief of staff. “We do not expect to train anybody.”
Police Chief Art Acevedo had previously said he was interested in teaching officers to collect blood evidence, setting off a public debate that went on for months.
Assistant City Attorney David Douglas told council members before their vote that barring Austin officers from collecting such evidence could conflict with state statutes, which require officers to use “all lawful means” to enforce the law.
Civil libertarians oppose police officers taking blood, saying it could put the city at risk of lawsuits if a suspect is injured. They also said they thought city officials should instead focus their efforts on programs that would prevent drunken driving, such as offering free taxi rides for intoxicated motorists.
Spelman had said he thought police officers collecting blood also could lead to more complaints against officers.
Carter said the idea of having officers collect blood was first mentioned last year after police officials reviewed practices in other Texas cities. He said the department is now exploring other options and told council members Thursday that police officials have been, and will continue to, have blood drawn at Austin hospitals.
Austin police administrators also are in talks with Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton about creating a partnership in which blood would be drawn by phlebotomists at the county’s central booking facility, Carter said.
The resolution approved Thursday directs Ott to develop clear guidelines for the collection of blood specimens and bring them to the council by Feb. 19.
“The guidelines must explain who will collect the specimens and under what circumstances,” the resolution said.
Ott also must prepare a cost study for the new blood specimen program.
Officials from several groups, including representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of Central Texas and Texans for Accountable Government, had initially asked for the resolution to ban police officers from drawing blood.
They also had sought a measure to prohibit police from conducting so-called “no refusal” operations, in which officers seek search warrants for the blood of drunken-driving suspects who refuse to provide breath tests. Such operations usually are conducted on holiday weekends.
The resolution did not address that issue.
Spelman said he learned from the city manager’s office and city attorneys last Friday that the original resolution might be in conflict with state laws.
“I think they were concerned about the City Council directing the police chief, through the city manager, to adopt a police procedure,” he said.
Spelman said he was pleased with the version that won approval Thursday, even though he said it is “clearly watered down from the original version.”
Debbie Russell, director of the Central Texas ACLU, said she also was pleased.
“There is simply no reason for officer-phlebotomists,” Russell said.
*Editor’s Note: The resolution was edited at 10am and the provision which would have barred APD Officer from drawing blood was removed.*
By Bobby Longoria (Daily Texan Staff)
Chuck Young speaks at a press conference outside of City Hall on Thursday as Heather Fazio, Katie Brewer and John Bush, all members of Texans for Accountable Government, stand with him.
To ensure professional and sanitary conditions for drawing blood, the Austin City Council voted unanimously for a resolution Thursday to prohibit Austin Police Department officers from performing blood draws.
The resolution says the healthy and accurate collection of blood specimens requires specialized health training and ongoing yearly medical evaluations. Approved blood draw technicians must have experience drawing blood on a daily basis in controlled public health settings with emergency health services nearby.
In July 2008, APD Chief Art Acevedo expressed interest in training police officers to draw blood from suspected drunk drivers if they refused to take a Breathalyzer test. He claimed it would save taxpayers because the officer would be present during court proceedings to give testimony on both the stop and the blood draw itself.
In March, Acevedo called for 50 officers to take a 40-hour blood drawing course.
“Blood draws, basically, are for the police department to follow the law to obtain physical evidence so they can adjudicate a case in court,” said APD Chief of Staff David Carter.
The concern was in the Austin Police Department training officers to actually draw blood. There are no plans to do that, and we are not doing that at this time, not at all.”
Carter said the issue began when the Travis County Jail was no longer able to accommodate blood draws requested by APD because of a shortage of resources.
Assistant Chief Al Eells said hospitals such as Brackenridge were also problematic locations for blood draws because busy hospitals might not be able to draw samples in a timely manner. Eells said the collection of blood samples for the prosecution of a DWI case is dependent on the time it takes to retrieve the sample, due to the metabolization rate of alcohol.
“The main thing we want to accomplish is to be able to conduct business certainly in a legal way and the most efficient way and have a process in place to do that,” Eells said.
Whether we are using trained professionals that are within the jail, which may be an option again, we are just going to look for the best way to accomplish the job and get it done.”
Eells said that during interlocal agreement discussions with the Travis County Jail, APD proposed using trained technicians to draw blood. Travis County would provide the sanitary spaces for the draw.
He said blood draws are not new to investigative proceedings and that APD would continue to obtain subpoenas and search warrants approved by magistrates.
During the council meeting, advocacy groups appeared in support of the resolution and proposed preventive measures to drunk driving.
“There is a lot of debate going on about the efficacy of [blood draw programs],” said John Bush, Texans for Accountable Government director. “We are not seeing a significant decrease in harm reduction and I define harm reduction as a net decrease in fatalities or accidents or injuries that occur as a result of drunk driving.”
Bush said he supports the city manager researching and preparing blood specimen collection alternatives and alternative preventive measures such as the square patrol program that provides designated drivers for Austin residents.
“I absolutely believe there are practical solutions to this $85 million-a-year problem,” said Shawn Fernando, director of Square Patrol, a local start-up that offers rides home to drunk Austinites. “I believe that with ingenuity and a commonality of purpose we can benefit this city and more importantly we can save lives.”
Yet again…no mention of Texans for Accountable Government (Tagtexas.org)
10/15/2009 5:03 PM
By: Reagan Hackleman
Austin City Council is reconsidering APD’s blood draw policy. Austin City Council will decide whether or not Austin police officers should be allowed to draw the blood of suspected drunk drivers, and one newly-elected council member is leading the charge.
“We’re putting both the police officer and the suspect in a dangerous situation,” Councilmember Bill Spelman said.
Spelman and his staff are drafting an ordinance that would prevent officers from taking blood.
“Drawing blood is like fixing a carburetor. If you do it all the time, you’re pretty good at. But, if you only do it once in a while, you’re not so good at it. What we really ought to be doing, is when we draw blood from people, is making sure that blood is drawn by someone who is licensed professional,” Spelman said.
Since starting blood draws, APD has used a phlebotomist at the Travis County Jail and hospital staff to collect the blood, but that didn’t last long.
News 8’s City Reporter Reagan Hackleman explains who the chief wants to train, and why that has some on the city council worried.
“The sheriff’s department got out of the blood draw business. Hospitals where refusing to draw blood and where did that leave us?” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said.
According to the chief, that left him looking at the option of training his officers, but he’s pretty sure that option is now off the table.
“I just had a meeting with some of the hospital officials and the sheriff. The sheriff has indicated a willingness to get back into the blood draw business,” Chief Acevedo said.
Acevedo said now there’s no reason for the council to move forward with the ordinance, but Spelman disagrees. He and the mayor still want to make sure officers won’t be drawing blood anytime soon.