WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program Director joined 13 law enforcement organizations in endorsing U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman’s (R-OH) Providing Officers with Electronic Resources (POWER) Act. The bill would provide state and local law enforcement with portable screening equipment to quickly and effectively identify dangerous drugs in the field. Currently, drugs have to be sent off to a lab to be tested – which can take months. Having portable devices in the field would allow officers to identify drugs, like fentanyl, immediately so they can investigate more effectively and know the proper protocols to follow to protect themselves.
“Based on my experiences here in Ohio, I fully support the Providing Officers with Electronic Resources Act,” wrote Executive Director of the Ohio HIDTA Program, Derek Siegle. Ohio HIDTA currently provides funding to seventeen drug task forces across Ohio, which have seen an alarming increase in fentanyl that has been mixed with heroin.
Siegle also wrote:
“Fentanyl and carfentanil are 50 to 5,000 times more potent as heroin. This toxicity is a very real danger to our law enforcement officers working narcotics and coming into contact with these drugs. I am aware of at least seven instances in Ohio where police officers required medical treatment, to include the use of Narcan, after being exposed to suspected fentanyl.
Several of the Ohio HIDTA task forces have considered purchasing handheld chemical screening devices used to quickly and more safely identify suspected narcotics in the field. However, the cost of the various devices are cost prohibitive for almost all of our task forces and the other non-HIDTA task forces (approximately 40) operating in Ohio. Most of these devices can scan directly through plastic or glass for most samples to minimize contamination, reduce exposure and preserve evidence.
Testing involving fentanyl, fentanyl analogs and carfentanil are also backlogged at many labs in Ohio due to the dramatic increase in the presence of these drugs in lab submissions.  . . . The ability of law enforcement officers to have handheld chemical screening devices to safely test heroin, carfentanil, fentanyl and fentanyl analogs may expedite the time it takes to bring charges against offenders. Some jurisdictions permit the use of such tests in the filing of charges, while others require actual lab analysis.”
The Providing Officers with Electronic Resources (POWER) Act would provide state and local law enforcement organizations with grant funding to secure the same devices Brown and Portman secured for Customs and Border Protection agents in the INTERDICT Act. President Trump signed INTERDICT into law earlier this year.