September 29, 2021
Manchin, Capito Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill To Help Law Enforcement Investigate Fentanyl, Protect Officers
POWER Act would help state and local law enforcement obtain drug screening devices used by federal law enforcement
Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and a bipartisan, bicameral group of senators and U.S. House members reintroduced 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.
“In 2020, 93,331 Americans and 1,377 West Virginians died from drug related overdoses,” Senator Manchin said. “Nearly 3/4 of those deaths were related to opioids or synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl or fentanyl-related substances. Our law enforcement officers are on the frontlines of this crisis, and it is vital that they have the best technology to keep illicit drugs out of our communities. I am proud to reintroduce this bipartisan bill and urge my colleagues to join us in supporting our law enforcement as they combat this deadly epidemic.”
“Right now, our family members, friends, and neighbors across West Virginia are dying at record rates from drug overdoses, most of which are caused by fentanyl and other synthetic opioids,” Senator Capito said. “Our law enforcement officers play a vital role in keeping these deadly substances out of our communities, and they need modern technology and support to help them do their jobs. The POWER Act builds upon my previous work to provide law enforcement with high-tech, portable screening devices and bring innovative solutions to tackle the drug crisis head on. This bipartisan bill can truly help save lives in our state and across the country.
The POWER Act gives law enforcement officers access to the same high-tech screening devices Senator Capito secured for Customs and Border Protection agents in the INTERDICT Act, which former President Trump signed into law in 2018.
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. 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, 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.
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