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Austin city council says officers not blood collectors

Austin City Council members  approved a resolution last week saying it is their “clear will” that police officers not personally collect blood from people suspected of driving while intoxicated.

During the meeting, police leaders told the council that they have abandoned plans to train a group of officers to act as phlebotomists.

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.

The police department is now exploring other options and told council members 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.

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