Why We All Should Be Frightened About Police "Phlebotomists"
Today, many DUI arrests now result with the arresting officer selecting a blood test over a breath test. In the past,, when officers opted for a blood test, they would transport the DUI suspect to a hospital or other similar type medical facility where trained medical personnel would draw blood in a clinical setting. Today, this procedure has been largely abandoned. Now, DUI suspects, after being told by the investigating officer a blood test will be done, are confronted with an armed law enforcement officer wielding a needle to draw blood. The officers tell the suspects Arizona law requires them to submit to the draw and that they will suffer consequences if they fail to do so. These needle wielding officers claim to be trained phlebotomists.
The vast majority of the police officers calling themselves phlebotomists are not graduates of a full phlebotomy program and certainly cannot be considered medical personnel. While these officers claim to be "trained" phlebotomists, they will admit upon closer questioning that they merely have a "certificate of completion" in a compressed venipuncture course and not full training in phlebotomy. Former Pima County Sheriff's Department "phlebotomy" supervisor, Sgt. Theel, in sworn testimony, repeatedly has asserted his officers are first and foremost police officers obtaining evidence, and not medical personnel. This is important as while these police "phlebotomists" are performing an invasive medical procedure, their first concern is not for the safety of the blood draw subject, but gathering evidence. None of this is surprising given Arizona's failure to regulate the drawing of blood. Under Arizona law,anyone can draw blood and Arizona law enforcement agencies have taken full advantage of this this fact. Most officers claiming qualifications to draw blood attended a one week course which provided a mere two days of actual classroom instruction on the limited skill of venipuncture.
Does this limited training and the lack of institutional oversight and control have an affect on the blood draws being performed in the field? Sworn testimony as well as numerous police reports from Pima County Sheriff's Department DUI investigations have revealed a consistent trail of questionable and in many cases, dangerous blood draws performed by these law enforcement "phlebotomists." For example, often times, venipunctures are done in the field. These "field draws" and are usually done either in the back seat of a patrol vehicle, or sometimes, with the suspect standing at the trunk of the patrol vehicle. Both of these procedures raise serious questions about the reasonableness of the officers' actions. In regards to drawing blood with the suspect standing by the trunk, it must be noted that the officers' training materials indicate venipuncture should never be done with the subject standing.
Expert testimony on this very subject in multiple court hearings plainly established the obvious risk of a standing subject swaying or even fainting during the draw. Indeed, true to form, Pima County Sheriff's Department document that on multiple occasions subjects have indeed swayed, pulling needles from their arms, risking injury and the spilling of potentially contagious blood. The point here is that this needless risk of injury and harm could and can be easily avoided simply by transporting the DUI suspect to a clinical setting. The reasons police officers are performing the blood draws in the field is for the convenience of the officers.