The Las Vegas Metro Police Department is teaming up with phlebotomists to crack down on DUIs and reckless driving in a new program.
The department announced that starting October 1, a team of phlebotomists will patrol nightly to conduct blood samples on those suspected of driving under the influence to combat reckless driving under their “DUI blitz” program.
Officials said that the effort is intended to save lives.
“The latest state report came out about fatalities, and the two main causal factors were under the influence and speed,” Lieutenant Bred Ficklin with the LVMPD traffic bureau said.
The addition of phlebotomists to police patrols is part of an ongoing effort launched in 2018 to search for and arrest individuals driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or other drugs.
“Lately, in the stops I have been making that turned out to be DUI, it has been red light runners,” Ficklin noted.
If a suspect is believed to be impaired, police carry out either a breath or blood test. However, in order for the department to conduct effective legal prosecutions of DUIs, police are required to obtain blood samples within two hours of the traffic stop.
“Because it is such a short time frame, especially when you consider having to make a stop having to do the field sobriety test, having to transport somebody to a facility like a city jail, Clark County detention center or UMC, it takes away from that two-hour time frame,” Ficklin explained.
In 2018, the department first recruited volunteer phlebotomists to join patrols on a nightly basis, but thanks to several grant awards, police could afford to hire a regular, full-time team of medical professionals working seven days a week for 10-hour days.
The department initially received a grant of $250,000 from the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety in 2020. In June this year, the department received a further $545,000 in grant funding to expand the program.
The phlebotomists, who are contracted through Sunrise Pathology Services, will coordinate with dispatch to respond to calls.
“We will contact dispatch, and dispatch will contact the officer that is working with the phlebotomist and have them respond to their location,” Ficklin explained.
“With the DUI program, we’re also helping save someone else’s life,” said Ashley Webber-Gamboa, owner of Sunrise Pathology Services.
During the department’s “DUI blitz” operations, Webber-Gamboa said she sometimes performs 20 blood draws a night.
If suspects do not consent to have their blood drawn, police must obtain a warrant through a judge.
“At that point, we contact a judge, we get a search warrant to get the blood and we still go through the process in those cases to get the blood out in the field,” Ficklin said.
As a result of the program, the department made more than 100 traffic stops and arrested 13 individuals on DUI charges in April alone.
“The key to this is numbers,” Sergeant David Stoddard said. “The more people you encounter, the more chance you have at catching someone DUI.”
A DUI charge can lead to having one’s license revoked for a year.