U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger, U.S. Representative Dave Joyce (R-OH-14), and U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) today introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to provide state and local law enforcement with new devices to detect and identify dangerous drugs — including fentanyl.
Spanberger’s Providing Officers with Electronic Resources (POWER) Act would establish a new U.S. Department of Justice grant program to help state and local law enforcement organizations secure high-tech, portable screening devices — which are already used by federal law enforcement to identify illicit drugs at U.S. ports of entry. These 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.
“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.”
“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 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.”
“Law enforcement officers are on the frontlines of our efforts to combat illegal fentanyl,” said 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,” said Cotton. “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.”
Spanberger’s 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 National HIDTA Directors Association.
The devices secured through this bipartisan bill would also help address the backlog of drugs awaiting laboratory identification, which would allow law enforcement to more effectively conduct drug investigations and prosecutions and crack down on drug trafficking. Without these devices, suspected drugs are sent to labs for testing — which can take months in some cases, delaying potential prosecution. And because these devices can quickly and effectively alert officers to dangerous substances in the field, they also help ensure officers can safely test and handle substances like fentanyl. 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.
Additionally, the instant results made possible through Spanberger’s POWER Act would allow officers to quickly alert local health departments when fentanyl is found in a community — so they can notify known users and help prevent overdoses.