Home Lawmakers introduce legislation to put devices in hands of police to detect fentanyl

Lawmakers introduce legislation to put devices in hands of police to detect fentanyl


Legislation was introduced in the House yesterday to provide state and local law enforcement with new devices to detect and identify dangerous drugs, including fentanyl.

The Providing Officers With Electronic Resources (POWER) Act would establish a new U.S. Department of Justice grant program to secure high-tech, portable screening devices for state and local law enforcement. The high-tech devices are already used by federal law enforcement to identify illicit drugs at U.S. ports of entry. The devices use laser technology to analyze potentially harmful substances and identify the substances, even through packaging, based on a library of thousands of compounds.

The POWER Act was introduced by U.S. Reps. Abigial Spanberger of Virginia, Dave Joyce of Ohio and U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

“As a former federal agent and CIA case officer who worked narcotics cases and tracked cartels, I recognize the severity of the fentanyl crisis in our communities. And recently, I’ve heard directly from police departments in Virginia that are increasingly encountering this substance while on the job,” said Spanberger. “That’s why I’m proud to help lead the bipartisan POWER Act. By making sure law enforcement officers have the resources and training they need, we can quickly identify when fentanyl enters an area, warn our neighbors, and build a response plan. Additionally, we can protect the lives of the men and women who keep our communities safe every day.”

According to Joyce, fentanyl is the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 49. Law enforcement is the last line of defense against the drug “that continues to devastate communities in Ohio and across the nation. It is critical law enforcement has the resources and tools they need to detect fentanyl and other dangerous drugs. This bipartisan bill will continue to support our law enforcement officers as they work to protect our communities from the opioid crisis. I encourage my colleagues in both chambers to help advance this legislation and send it to the President’s desk for signature.”

Cotton said that every state has been infected by fentanyl, so every police force needs the tools necessary to defend against its mass destruction.

“Our bill would give local and state police the same equipment that federal law enforcement already uses to detect fentanyl in the field. Identifying the drug so quickly allows officers to act faster and with greater certainty, whether to protect themselves and their communities or to bring traffickers to justice,” Cotton said.

The high-tech devices would also help address the backlog of drugs awaiting laboratory identification and allow law enforcement to more effectively conduct drug investigations and prosecutions to crack down on drug trafficking. Without these devices, suspected drugs must be sent to labs for testing, which can take months and delay potential prosecution. The use of all devices would be subjected to 4th Amendment restrictions on unlawful searches and seizures, and other relevant privacy laws. The instant results possible with the devices would immediately alert local health departments of fentanyl’s presence in the community.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.