CONGRESSMAN LAMB LEADS BIPARTISAN EFFORT TO PROTECT LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS ON FRONTLINE OF ONGOING OPIOID EPIDEMIC IN AMERICA
(WASHINGTON, DC) – Congressman Conor Lamb (PA-18) introduced bipartisan legislation to enable law enforcement officers on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic to detect and protect themselves against fentanyl. In partnership with Congressman David Joyce (OH-14), Congressman Lamb introduced the Providing Officers With Electronic Resources (POWER) Act of 2018 (H.R.5871), which establishes a new grant program at the Department of Justice to provide funds to state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement organizations to obtain high-tech, portable chemical screening devices, also known as interdiction devices. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio introduced the Senate version of the legislation in April.
The illicit synthetic opioid fentanyl — which is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine — is fueling record levels of drug overdoses and presents an unprecedented safety risk to officers and first responders, with numerous reports of accidental overdoses after encountering fentanyl present at the scene of a crime or medical emergency.
Already widely used by federal law enforcement officers at our nation's ports of entry, interdiction devices would enhance both officer safety and the efficiency of investigations, enabling local and state law enforcement professionals to better respond to the drug crisis in America.
"Fentanyl is killing people every day in Western Pennsylvania. Even being near it is dangerous," said Lamb. "Our officers are risking their lives to get fentanyl off the streets, but they need better tools. This bill gives our officers more of what they need, and it will help prosecutors convict more fentanyl dealers."
"As a former prosecutor and advocate for solutions to the opioid epidemic, I am always looking for new ways to get tools that have proven effective into the hands of law enforcement to help them combat this problem," said Joyce. "This epidemic is affecting communities everywhere. We need to make sure our officers, who are on the front lines of this problem every day, have the right resources and training to keep them safe from harm while they work to get dangerous drugs like fentanyl out of the hands of abusers and off the streets."
In addition to the immediate safety benefits, the quantity of drugs being seized by officers is contributing to significant backlogs in local and state testing laboratories, resulting in delays in charging decisions and prosecutions, as well as hindering the effectiveness and efficiency of drug investigations. Furthermore, this legislation streamlines the substance testing process for law enforcement, providing real-time results.
The POWER Act is supported by the National Fraternal Order of Police, National Sheriffs Association, International Union of Police Associations, National Association of Police Organizations, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, National HIDTA Directors Association, the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police and the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police.