HPD Practices On Prisoners For Drawing Blood From Drunk Driving Suspectshttp://www.click2houston.com/news/23938401/detail.html
HOUSTON -- Houston City Hall has nixed a plan to have HPD officers draw blood themselves from drunken drivers, and Local 2 Investigates found they practiced on state prison inmates in a psychiatric ward.
"This type of behavior on psychiatric inmates is very, very unethical," said Houston civil rights attorney Randall Kallinen.
Local 2 Investigates first uncovered last year that HPD officers would begin training to become certified phlebotomists. That would allow them to draw blood from suspected drunken drivers without having to rely on hospitals or nurses.
The first seven officers started training, first using artificial limbs and then sticking needles into each other's arms. From there, they started sticking needles into the arms of convicts at the Jester IV Prison, a psychiatric ward off Highway 99 near Richmond.
One officer involved in the training said the inmates were having blood drawn under a doctor's orders as part of "intake" into the prison system. The officer said, "They were not stuck just for us."
In a statement, University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), which administers the medical program in Texas prisons said:
"UTMB’s Correctional Managed Care program has an agreement with Lone Star College involving its Law Enforcement Phlebotomy Program. The participating Houston police officers at the units were there as part of the Lone Star College course they were taking. Having blood drawn is part of the standard intake process at TDCJ and offenders were given the option of having a police officer or a staff phlebotomist perform the procedure. All of the offenders involved chose to allow the police officers to do the procedure."
At HPD headquarters, Executive Assistant Chief Tim Oettmeier said it was a "validated, certified training program."
When asked about the ethics of HPD officers practicing needle prods on inmates, he said, "We looked at it as students involved with a protocol, as opposed to police officers involved in a protocol."
Kallinen said it raises many questions since the officers were not trained or certified medical professionals.
"Are they going to perform the right procedures? Are they going to cause an infection? Are they going to stab the wrong thing to practice medical procedures on inmates, and especially psychiatric inmates?" Kallinen said.
He said those inmates may not be able to understand or provide a meaningful consent to be used for training exercises.
"What you have there is sort of a group of people who can be very easily coerced into doing things that aren't good for them," said Kallinen. "They want to please their captors."
The program was hatched last year under the prior mayor and police chief.
Mayor Annise Parker has now scrapped the entire program, but not because inmates were used as test subjects.
In a statement, Mayor Parker said:
"Chief (Charles) McClelland and I have agreed to halt this program. While I applaud the out-of-the-box thinking that led to this idea, I believe it went too far. I cannot support taking our officers off the street either to draw blood or for deployment in this matter. Of course, drunk driving is a serious problem that we must work together to eradicate, but there are already mechanisms in place to determine whether a motorist is driving under the influence. Additionally, if we choose, there is the option of contracting with civilian professionals to draw the blood."
Oettmeier said the city lost $4,000 by scrapping the program. Those where the costs of giving hepatitis shots and other vaccinations required for the seven officers to begin phlebotomist training.
One officer said, "I just spent five days at TDC drawing blood for nothing."
That officer said blood was drawn from at least 50 inmates at Jester IV and another lockup in Dayton before the program was halted in mid April.
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Text SizeHPD Practices On Prisoners For Drawing Blood From Drunk Driving Suspects
By Stephen Dean
POSTED: Thursday, June 17, 2010
UPDATED: 6:18 pm CDT June 17, 2010