Brown, police, make pitch for drug testing equipment

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U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown will reintroduce a bill that would provide law enforcement agencies with scanners to test for synthetic opioids.

Brown, D-Ohio, flanked Monday by city police Chief Robin Lees and Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene, said his Providing Officers With Electronic Resources, or POWER act has bipartisan support.

The handheld devices use laser technology to detect the drugs, according to a summary of the POWER act on Brown’s web site. That would help officers in the field more quickly identify quickly such as fentanyl and carefentanil — synthetic opioids that can cause illness or even death in the right quantities if they come in contact with a person’s skin.

The bill is based on a similar effort sponsored by Brown and signed into law by President Trump that provided funding for the same kind of scanners for customs and border patrol agents. Brown’s colleague from Ohio, Sen. Bob Portman, R-Ohio, is also assisting on the bill, Brown said.

Brown said besides keeping officers safe while letting them know about a substance that requires precautions to correctly handle, the bill can also bring some cases to court more quickly. By testing at a scene and eliminating the delay caused by sending suspected drugs to a lab, and police can have results right away.

Lees said the department’s vice squad serve warrants at homes every week investigating drug crimes and the scanners could be useful.

“A lot of times you can’t physically tell the difference between what is fentanyl and what is cocaine,” Lees said.

Greene said at the jail, prisoners being bought in often try to conceal drugs and sometimes deputies are exposed to something that will make them sick. The scanners would be a great help in alleviating that risk, Greene said.

“I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have a tool like this,” Greene said.

Brown said his bill is endorsed by the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association and the Fraternal Order of Police. He said he thinks the bill will garner more support because opioids are a problem across the country and senators are waiting to see the results from the earlier bill that was signed by the president.

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