Brown Leads Bipartisan Bill to Help Law Enforcement Investigate Fentanyl, Protect Officers

POWER Act Helps State and Local Law Enforcement Obtain Drug Screening Devices Used by Federal Law Enforcement

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced bipartisan legislation to provide state and local law enforcement with high-tech devices to detect and identify dangerous drugs like fentanyl.

The Providing Officers with Electronic Resources (POWER) Act would establish a new grant program through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to help state and local law enforcement organizations secure these high-tech, portable screening devices.

The POWER Act gives law enforcement officers access to the same high-tech screening devices Markey, Brown, Rubio, and Capito secured for Customs and Border Protection agents in the INTERDICT Act. President Trump signed the INTERDICT Act into law last year. 

“Law enforcement officers are on the frontlines of our efforts to combat illegal fentanyl,” said Senator Brown. “Following our success in securing new screening devices for federal law enforcement agents last year, we need to give Ohio officers the same tools to detect these dangerous drugs.”

“Fentanyl continues to devastate families and communities in Ohio and across the country.  Congress made progress on this issue last year by passing the STOP Act and the INTERDICT Act, but we must continue to give law enforcement and other first responders the tools they need to detect and stop fentanyl and other synthetic drugs.  The POWER Act is another important step forward in this effort,” said Senator Portman. 

“As fentanyl and other synthetic opioids pour into our communities, we have a responsibility to equip our police officers with everything they require to better identify these dangerous substances and keep people safe. The POWER Act will help extend the benefit of modern, portable screening devices to our police departments on the front lines of the opioid epidemic in Colorado and across the country,” said Senator Bennet.

“Our local law enforcement plays a vital role in efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and one of the ways they are helping in these efforts is by detecting and stopping the flow of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids,” Senator Capito said. “The POWER Act will help state and local law enforcement obtain the tools necessary to quickly detect these dangerous drugs and ultimately keep them out of communities in West Virginia and across the country. Legislation like the POWER Act can truly save lives, and I will continue working to develop and support new and innovative solutions like this one that will tackle this crisis from all angles.”

“Our nation’s first responders are on the front lines of the opioid and fentanyl crises, putting themselves in harm’s way,” said Senator Duckworth. “We need to do everything we can to help them do their jobs safely and effectively while ensuring our first responders have the resources they need to serve their communities.”

“Colorado’s first responders are key to combatting the opioid epidemic and need the best possible tools to identify dangerous illegal synthetic drugs like fentanyl,” said Sen. Gardner. “Bipartisan legislation like the POWER Act will help our local law enforcement detect these potent drugs that have infiltrated communities across our country. I will continue working across the aisle to deliver solutions and fight back against this crisis that has claimed the lives of too many Americans.”

“Police officers, paramedics, and other first responders face tremendous danger when responding to scenes where fentanyl and other dangerous substances are present. Shielding these brave men and women in Massachusetts and across the country from these dangers as they serve and protect our communities should be our top priority. I am proud to join my colleagues on this important legislation to provide law enforcement with tools to immediately identify fentanyl and other illicit synthetic opioids,” said Senator Markey.

“We must do more to equip first responders with the tools that will protect them and ensure the public’s safety as they battle on the front lines of the opioid epidemic ravaging communities around the nation,” Senator Rubio said. “This critical, bipartisan legislation would provide resources to local law enforcement for additional chemical screening devices that detect and interdict those dangerous substances that are destroying so many lives.”

“Our police officers and first responders are on the front lines of the opioid epidemic,” said Senator Warren. “I’m glad to work with my colleagues on a bipartisan bill to help our law enforcement officials detect dangerous illicit substances such as fentanyl to protect themselves and others as we work to find public health solutions to this crisis.”

These devices are already used by federal law enforcement to identify dangerous drugs at U.S. ports of entry. The devices use laser technology to analyze potentially harmful substances - even through some packaging - and identify those substances based on a library of thousands of compounds that are categorized within the device.

The devices would also help address the backlog of drugs awaiting laboratory identification, which will allow law enforcement to more effectively conduct drug investigations and prosecutions and crack down on drug trafficking. Without these devices, suspected drugs have to be sent to labs for testing - which can take months in some cases, delaying the justice system. And because the devices can quickly and effectively alert officers to dangerous substances in the field, they also help ensure officers can test and handle substances like fentanyl safely.   

Instant results also allow officers to quickly alert local health departments and others when fentanyl is found in a community so they can notify known users and help prevent accidental overdoses.  

The POWER Act is supported by the National Sheriffs’ Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, Major Cities Chiefs Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association, National Association of Police Organizations, National HIDTA Directors Association, Sergeants Benevolent Association, International Union of Police Associations, National Narcotics Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, National Alliance of State Drug Enforcement Agencies, and National Tactical Officers Association.

“The opioid crisis is devastating our communities, destroying countless lives and putting an enormous burden on sheriffs and their deputies. America’s sheriffs answer the call every day – as we serve our communities and combat the horrible scourge of criminal opioid traffickers and dealers. This bill goes a long way in alleviating drug testing backlogs fueled by the opioid crisis and to better protect deputies and officers from exposure to the drugs,” said National Sherriffs’ Association Director Jonathan Thompson.

“The availability of high-tech equipment to assist our officers identify, test, and handle dangerous narcotics such as fentanyl and fentanyl analogs is critical to their safety. The ability to quickly identify narcotics without waiting for backlogged laboratory testing sights to conduct the examination allows law enforcement to detain and even charge those who are trafficking in these dangerous drugs,” said Ohio HIDTA Director Derek Siegle.

“The POWER Act will provide another tool to be utilized in the field for first responders dealing with suspected narcotic related calls for service. All too often law enforcement officers and medical personnel are exposed to suspected fentanyl and other deadly substances.  The detection devices funded through the POWER Act will enable first responders to better identify dangerous drugs they are encountering,” said Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth.

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