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Tillis Co-Sponsors Bipartisan Bill to Protect Law Enforcement Who Investigate Fentanyl, Dangerous Drugs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced bipartisan legislation to provide state and local law enforcement with high-tech devices to detect and identify dangerous drugs like 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 an extremely dangerous drug that continues to pour into our country and devastate communities,” said Senator Tillis. “We must equip our law enforcement officials with the tools and resources they need to detect these illegal substances, and I am proud to join this bipartisan legislation as we continue to our effort to end the opioid epidemic.”

“Law enforcement officers are on the front lines of our efforts to combat illegal fentanyl,” said Senator Brown. “Following our success in securing new screening devices for federal law enforcement agents last year, we need to give Ohio officers the same tools to detect these dangerous drugs.”

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.

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, Major Cities Chiefs Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers 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.

“The opioid crisis is devastating our communities, destroying countless lives and putting an enormous burden on sheriffs and their deputies. America’s sheriffs answer the call every day – as we serve our communities and combat the horrible scourge of criminal opioid traffickers and dealers. This bill goes a long way in alleviating drug testing backlogs fueled by the opioid crisis and to better protect deputies and officers from exposure to the drugs,” said National Sheriffs’ Association Director Jonathan Thompson.

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