Colorado U.S. Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing 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 create a new grant program through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to assist state and local law enforcement organizations in securing the portable screening devices. 

“Colorado’s first responders are key to combating the opioid epidemic and need the best possible tools to identify dangerous illegal synthetic drugs like fentanyl,” said Senator Gardner. “Bipartisan legislation like the POWER Act will help our local law enforcement detect these potent drugs that have infiltrated communities across our country.”

“As fentanyl and other synthetic opioids pour into our communities, we have a responsibility to equip our police officers with everything they require to better identify these dangerous substances and keep people safe,” said Senator Bennet. “The POWER Act will help extend the benefit of modern, portable screening devices to our police departments on the front lines of the opioid epidemic in Colorado and across the country.”

The devices are already used by federal law enforcement to identify dangerous drugs at U.S. ports of entry, said a release. 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. They 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, the release noted. 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 release said.

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 release said.

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.