Potential For Fentanyl Exposure Still A Major Threat To Law Enforcement Officers

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Fentanyl has devastated communities around North America. In the process, officers face the threat of exposure while doing their jobs, and law enforcement agencies have needed to change procedures to ensure officer safety while searching for best practices on how to handle with fentanyl. Here are two stories from North Carolina and Canada about officers exposed to fentanyl during the course of their duties and a new bill proposed in the U.S. Senate to help bring some needed technology to state and local agencies:

Fayetteville, North Carolina police officer Samuel Cook has used naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses for about a dozen people, but, as reported by WRAL.com, he can now say that the drug and the training of his fellow officers prevented him from becoming a victim of a fentanyl overdose while executing a search warrant. While loading equipment after the search’s conclusion, Cook’s face started to tingle, he felt dizzy and started to cough. “It felt like my chest was tight, my throat was clogged and I felt like I couldn’t really breathe,” he said. As the officer sank to his knees and pitched forward, his fellow officers came to his rescue. The first dose of naloxone did not reverse the effect of the fentanyl, but within less than a minute of a second dose, Cook was up on his feet again. “It’s crazy being a victim of it,” he said. “I’ve seen people overdosing, but I never thought it could happen to me.”

Less than a week after Officer Cook’s experience, a law enforcement officer in Alberta, Canada also expressed his gratitude for being alive after being exposed to fentanyl while on patrol. As reported by CTV News, peace officer Jeremy Hampton picked up a vial that contained some white powder. He had just brought the vial back to the office when he also started having difficulty breathing and blurred vision. Fearing that he had been poisoned by fentanyl, Hampton called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for help and found a nearby naloxone kit. He injected himself, saying, “Your training does kick in, but there’s still that fear because you don’t know what’s going on.” Paramedics took Hampton to the hospital where he received a second dose of naloxone and was monitored before being released. Traces of fentanyl were found on the dashboard of Hampton’s vehicle and on his ticket books. Tests revealed that the powder inside the vial also included cocaine and MDMA.

WTOL11 in Ohio reported on U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown meeting with officers from across the state earlier this month where he showed them a new scanner currently used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents to locate fentanyl at border crossings and at international mail facilities. Brown, along with fellow Senators Rob Portman, Charles Schumer, Marco Rubio, Ed Markey, and Shelley Moore Capito, introduced the Providing Officers with Electronic Resources (POWER) Act in April to help bring this technology to state and local law enforcement officers. If passed, the POWER Act would create a new grant program managed by the U.S. Department of Justice to help state and local law enforcement organizations secure these high-tech, portable screening devices.