We’ve heard the news stories about police officers getting accidentally exposed to harmful substances, including synthetic opioids like carfentanyl and fentanyl. Just this past spring, two officers and an EMT in Holyoke, Massachusetts, were hospitalized after exposure to fentanyl following their response to an opioid overdose and revival of the victim. In this same time period, three Wisconsin police officers were treated for fentanyl exposure in separate incidents following vehicle searches, and three Georgia officers were sickened after encountering a motel room overdose victim. In another occurrence, during a police drug raid in Pittsburgh, 18 SWAT officers were exposed to fentanyl when a table was overturned and the then unknown substances spilled and became airborne. They became sickened and all were transported to the hospital.
Now there is another concern in the law enforcement field. According to The Atlantic, “The drug can be extra dangerous when your detective work involves sniffing.” There are reports that dogs assisting in a federal drug raid in Florida showed symptoms of overdose after the specific law enforcement response. The canines refused water and were lethargic. Just like human officers who need to be hospitalized after accidentally inhaling puffs of exposed fentanyl or other substances, police dogs – who do their job primarily by sniffing – can encounter the same danger. As a result, new training is being offered for police utilizing canines and some police officers now carry Narcan for their dogs.
The article stated that it takes 20 times as much fentanyl to affect a dog as it does a person (according to Cynthia Otto, the executive director of the Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania). However, officials have become aware of an additional risk: the dog can get fentanyl on its fur and bring it back to the human handler, who might pet the dog and get traces of the drug on his or her hands.
We’ve previously written about some police departments that are currently using narcotics analyzers in the field to help fight the drug crisis. These tools utilize Raman spectroscopy, a well-established analytical technique. These instruments are used in the field to identify key drugs of abuse as well as common cutting agents, precursors and emerging threats such as fentanyl, numerous fentanyl compounds including carfentanil, common street fentanyl analogs, pharmaceutical variants as well as the fentanyl precursors, NPP and ANPP.
As an extra precaution, these handheld narcotics analyzers can test unknown substances without requiring that they be removed from packaging, thereby avoiding direct contact with the substance or even the “puff’ that may result from opening the package, which could harm both humans and dogs. Providing law enforcement officials a quicker method to identify suspected narcotics in the field can help keep first responders and law officials safer during a response – whether they be human or animal.
Editor’s Note: To help educate law enforcement officials about the latest technologies available to help clarify the situation and determine an appropriate course of action, we’ve gathered all our educational materials and consolidated them into one section in our website titled Solutions for Law Enforcement: Narcotics, Chemical and Radiation Threats.