A bill introduced by Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and backed by his Republican counterpart, Sen. Rob Portman, would allow police departments to buy advanced equipment that can instantly detect fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.
The Providing Officers with Electronic Resources (POWER) Act, introduced this week, builds on the INTERDICT Act, federal legislation signed into law last year that provides U.S. Customers and Border Protection agents with handheld technology that can identify thousands of drug compounds, even within packages.
The bill would establish $20 million in grants through the U.S. Department of Justice for local law enforcement and sheriffs’ offices “so that when police officers stop someone with a substance and they don’t quite know what it is, they can test the substance with the handheld device rather than send it off to a lab and find out days later,” Mr. Brown said Friday in Toledo.
The senator was joined by Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz and Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp during a news conference to promote the legislation, which has bipartisan support. Mr. Tharp said if it passes, he would apply for grant funding for Lucas County, where 153 people died of drug overdoses in 2017.
The devices would help officers accurately charge offenders based on the type of drugs possessed, he said, as well as protect officers handling unknown and dangerous substances.
“Old school is that the officer carries a small kit ... they would put the substance in the small kit, shake it up, and if it turns purple then it would be cocaine,” Mr. Tharp said. “But then you’re touching the substance. And we know that carfentanil, if you have a wound in your hand, that carfentanil ends up going into the wound and it can put you in the hospital.”
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