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Brown sponsors drug detection device bill

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is sponsoring bipartisan legislation that would provide funding to state and local law enforcement agencies to purchase devices to detect and identify dangerous drugs such as fentanyl.

The POWER Act is similar to the INTERDICT Act that Brown, D-Cleveland, and others sponsored in 2018 that provides the high-tech, portable screening devices for U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.

“These devices will allow officers to know instantly if a drug poses a danger to them,” Brown said Wednesday on a conference call to discuss the bill.

He added: “Law enforcement officers are on the front lines of our effort to combat illegal fentanyl. 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.”

If approved, the POWER Act would provide $20 million to start to buy the drug-detecting devices for state and local law enforcement, Brown said.

“We’re starting modestly,” he said, adding that money wouldn’t be enough to cover law enforcement in just the state of Ohio.

Joining Brown on the call was Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene, who said having “an additional tool out in the field is priceless for us.”

Greene said the fentanyl drug problem is “the worst it’s ever been.”

Fentanyl is sometimes used alone, but most of the time it is added into other drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine and the users are often unaware they’re taking the potent drug.

“We’re seeing more meth than ever in Mahoning County,” Greene said.

The bill has bipartisan support.

Greene said he was very pleased that Democrats and Republicans have come together to back the proposal.

“What makes it impactful is it identifies fentanyl, among other drugs,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, another co-sponsor of the bill, said in a written statement: “Fentanyl continues to devastate families and communities in Ohio and across the country, made even worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress must continue to give law enforcement and other first responders the tools they need to detect and stop fentanyl and other synthetic drugs.”

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