Portman, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Help Law Enforcement Investigate Fentanyl, Protect Officers

POWER Act Helps State and Local Law Enforcement Obtain Drug Screening Devices Used by Federal Law Enforcement

September 29, 2021 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) joined his colleagues in introducing the Providing Officers with Electronic Resources (POWER) Act, bipartisan, bicameral legislation designed to provide state and local law enforcement with high-tech devices to detect and identify dangerous drugs like fentanyl. The 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, the same high-tech screening devices secured for Customs and Border Protection agents in the INTERDICT Act, which former President Trump signed into law in 2018.

Along with Portman, the POWER Act is cosponsored by: Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Cotton (R-AR) Michael Bennet (D-CO), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). U.S. Representatives Conor Lamb (D-PA) and David Joyce (R-OH) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Fentanyl continues to devastate families and communities in Ohio and across the country, made even worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress must continue to give law enforcement and other first responders the tools they need to detect and stop fentanyl and other synthetic drugs. The POWER Act is another important step forward in this effort,” said Senator Portman.

“Law enforcement officers are on the frontlines of our efforts to combat illegal fentanyl,” said Senator Brown. “Following our success in securing new screening devices for federal law enforcement agents, we need to give Ohio officers the same tools to detect these dangerous drugs.”

“Each year, fentanyl kills tens of thousands of Americans. Our law enforcement and intelligence agencies need additional resources to target the fentanyl producers, traffickers, cartels, and other criminals who are funneling this poison across our borders and into our communities,” said Senator Cotton.

“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,” said Senator Capito. “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.”

“Our nation’s first responders are on the front lines of the opioid and fentanyl crises, putting themselves in harm’s way,” said Senator Duckworth. “We need to do everything we can to help them do their jobs safely and effectively, and the POWER Act would help provide the resources they need to serve their communities.”

“Fentanyl is an extremely dangerous drug that continues to pour into our country and devastate communities,” said Senator Tillis. “We must equip our law enforcement officials with the tools and resources they need to detect these illegal substances, and I am proud to join this bipartisan legislation as we continue our effort to end the opioid epidemic.”

“In 2020, 93,331 Americans and 1,377 West Virginians died from drug related overdoses,” said Senator Manchin. “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.”

“Paramedics, police officers, and other first responders face tremendous danger when responding to scenes where fentanyl and other dangerous substances are present. Our legislation will help shield first responders in Massachusetts and across the country from these dangers as they serve and protect our communities. I am proud to join my colleagues on this important bill to provide law enforcement with tools to immediately identify fentanyl and other illicit synthetic opioids,” said Senator Markey.

“We must do more to equip first responders with the tools that will protect them and ensure the public’s safety as they battle on the front lines of the opioid epidemic ravaging communities across Florida,” said Senator Rubio. “This critical, bipartisan legislation would provide resources to local law enforcement to purchase additional chemical screening devices that detect and interdict those dangerous substances, such as fentanyl, that are destroying so many lives.”

“On average, two people a day in Colorado have died due to a fentanyl overdose during the first six months of 2021,” said Senator Bennet.We have a responsibility to protect our communities from the flow of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids into our communities and help first responders on the front lines of this epidemic better identify dangerous substances. Our legislation will equip law enforcement agencies with portable screening devices to help detect and identify these drugs and keep people in Colorado and across the country safe.”

“Substance use disorder has devastated communities across New Hampshire, and it is crucial that we stem the flow of dangerous opioids such as fentanyl,” said Senator Hassan. “In order to screen potentially deadly substances, law enforcement must be equipped with the latest and best technology. I am glad to help introduce this commonsense bill to help crack down on drug trafficking, make sure our law enforcement officers have the resources that they need, and protect our communities. I’ll continue to push to make sure we do everything that we can to end the substance use disorder crisis.”

“Fentanyl has worsened the terrible effects of the opioid crisis on our nation in terms of overdoses, deaths, and crime,” said Senator Hyde-Smith. “Giving law enforcement the technology to detect illicit drugs, like fentanyl, would provide the information needed to handle overdose cases, to combat trafficking more efficiently, and to protect officers from exposure to toxic drugs.”

“Synthetic opioids like fentanyl killed more Americans last year than ever before. Congress must work to ensure that first responders who are on the frontlines of this crisis have the tools they need to safely do their jobs,” said Congressman Lamb.  “I will continue to work with my colleagues across the aisle and in the Senate to pass this legislation that will protect first responders and streamline the substance testing process to provide real-time results and reduce the backlog in the legal system.”

“Last year, more Americans died of a drug overdose than ever before,” said Congressman Joyce. “This year, enough fentanyl has been seized at our southern border to kill the entire U.S. population seven times over and the DEA recently reported unprecedented quantities of counterfeit pills containing this deadly synthetic opioid in all 50 states. It’s imperative that our law enforcement officials have the tools they need to detect these dangerous drugs and get them off the streets. I’m proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in reintroducing this important, bipartisan bill and will continue to support our law enforcement officers as they work to protect our communities from the opioid crisis.”

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. 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 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, 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.