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Rubio, Brown, Cotton, Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Help Law Enforcement Investigate Fentanyl, Protect Officers
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) and colleagues in reintroducing 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 to help state and local law enforcement organizations secure these high-tech, portable screening devices. U.S. Representatives Conor Lamb (D-PA) and David Joyce (R-OH) reintroduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The POWER Act gives law enforcement officers access to the same high-tech screening devices that Senators Rubio, Brown, Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Ed Markey (D-MA) secured for Customs and Border Protection agents in the INTERDICT Act, which former President Trump signed into law in 2018.
Click here for a full list of cosponsors and quotes.
“We must do more to equip first responders with the tools that will protect them and ensure the public’s safety as they battle on the front lines of the opioid epidemic ravaging communities across Florida,” Rubio said. “This critical, bipartisan legislation would provide resources to local law enforcement to purchase additional chemical screening devices that detect and interdict those dangerous substances, such as fentanyl, that are destroying so many lives.”
“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.”
“Each year, fentanyl kills tens of thousands of Americans,” Cotton said. “ Our law enforcement and intelligence agencies need additional resources to target the fentanyl producers, traffickers, cartels, and other criminals who are funneling this poison across our borders and into our communities.”
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 to 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 supported by the National Sheriffs’ Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, Major Cities Chiefs Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association, National Association of Police Organizations, National HIDTA Directors Association, Sergeants Benevolent Association, International Union of Police Associations, National Narcotics Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, National Alliance of State Drug Enforcement Agencies, and National Tactical Officers Association.