A new federal grant program would help state and local police departments purchase screening equipment that can rapidly identify fentanyl and other dangerous substances in the field under a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate on Thursday.
Under the Providing Officers with Electronic Resources (POWER) Act, S. 2763, the U.S. Department of Justice would administer grants to help state and local authorities purchase portable screening equipment that’s currently used along the southern border. The bipartisan measure was introduced by U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Ed Markey (D-MA).
“Fentanyl continues to ravage communities in Ohio and across the country,” Portman said. “Law enforcement and other first responders need all the tools available to detect and stop fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin. The POWER Act will help provide officers with devices to screen and identify fentanyl and other synthetic drugs more quickly and efficiently.”
Using laser technology portable screening devices are able to detect and identify thousands of dangerous substances, some through packaging. The POWER Act aims to draw down the backlog of drugs that are currently awaiting laboratory testing and to advance prosecution.
“Law enforcement officers are on the frontlines of our efforts to combat illegal fentanyl,” Brown said.“Following our success in securing new screening devices for federal law enforcement agents earlier this year, we need to give Ohio officers the same tools to detect these dangerous drugs.”
With the opioid epidemic impacting communities throughout Florida, Rubio said “it is clear we must do more to ensure that first responders have access to the right tools to protect themselves and ensure public safety.”
Schumer said that while the opioid epidemic has affected the lives of so many Americans, it also endangers law enforcement officers by exposing them to illegal and often fatal substances.
“It is our responsibility to protect the men and women who bravely put themselves in harm’s way to ensure the public safety of Americans by providing them with the proper resources to do their job,” Schumer said. “This bill and these screening devices will help keep law enforcement safe and allow them to work more efficiently while on the front lines fighting the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities.”