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POWER Act would provide law enforcement grants to purchase drug detection devices

Reckoning with rising cases of overdose throughout the United States, a bicameral reintroduction of the POWER Act was announced last week, which proposes new U.S. Department of Justice-provided grants to help law enforcement procure better drug detection devices.

POWER, or Providing Officers with Electronic Resources, would specifically seek to help state and local law enforcement organizations with equipment acquisition. In addition to drug detection, the new devices being eyed for these organizations would also help officers identify these drugs, with a particular eye on items such as fentanyl.

“Last year, more Americans died of a drug overdose than ever before,” U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) said. Joyce, a former prosecutor, submitted the legislation alongside U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) and U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Tom Cotton (R-AR).

“This year, enough fentanyl has been seized at our southern border to kill the entire U.S. population seven times over and the DEA recently reported unprecedented quantities of counterfeit pills containing this deadly synthetic opioid in all 50 states,” Joyce continued. “It’s imperative that our law enforcement officials have the tools they need to detect these dangerous drugs and get them off the streets.”

The tools in question are already utilized by federal law enforcement agents at U.S. ports of entry. Laser-based, they can even reach through certain packaging to analyze potentially harmful substances and identify them from a library of thousands of compounds contained within each device. This would have the added benefit of reducing the backlog of drugs awaiting identification at the nation’s various labs, potentially reducing delays on drug investigations and prosecutions.

Generally, drug identification must be undertaken at a lab. Such testing can take months.

“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, we need to give Ohio officers the same tools to detect these dangerous drugs.”

The effort is backed by numerous law enforcement organizations, from the National Sheriffs’ Association and Fraternal Order of Police to the National Alliance of State Drug Enforcement Agencies and the National Tactical Officers Association.

Chris Galford

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