03.27.19

Capito Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Help Law Enforcement Investigate Fentanyl, Protect Officers

POWER Act helps state, local law enforcement obtain drug screening devices used by federal law enforcement

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)—along with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)—today 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. The legislation gives law enforcement officers access to the same high-tech screening devices Senators Capito, Markey, Brown, and Rubio secured for Customs and Border Protection agents in the INTERDICT Act, which President Trump signed into law last year.

“Our local law enforcement plays a vital role in efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and one of the ways they are helping in these efforts is by detecting and stopping the flow of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids,” Senator Capito said. “The POWER Act will help state and local law enforcement obtain the tools necessary to quickly detect these dangerous drugs and ultimately keep them out of communities in West Virginia and across the country. Legislation like the POWER Act can truly save lives, and I will continue working to develop and support new and innovative solutions like this one that will tackle this crisis from all angles.”

BACKGROUND:

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. 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, 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. 

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