WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Dave Joyce (R-OH-14) and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) alongside Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) reintroduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to provide state and local law enforcement with high-tech devices to detect and identify dangerous drugs, including 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.
“Fentanyl is the leading cause of death for Americans 18 to 45 years old. Our law enforcement officers are often the last line of defense against this drug that continues to devastate communities in Ohio and across the nation,” said Congressman Joyce. “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.”
“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 Congresswoman 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.”
“Law enforcement officers are on the frontlines of our efforts to combat illegal fentanyl,” said Senator Brown. “Following our success in securing new screening and containment devices for federal law enforcement agents, we need to give Ohio officers the same tools to detect these dangerous drugs.”
“Fentanyl has infected every state, and every police force needs the tools to defend against this drug of 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,” said Senator Cotton.
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. The use of all devices would still be subject to 4th amendment restrictions on unlawful searches and seizures, as well as other relevant privacy laws.
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 endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), National Sheriff’s Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA), Major County Sheriffs of America, National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA), National District Attorney’s Association (NDAA), and the National HIDTA Directors Association.