logo for print

Fentanyl 'life changing' for cops, lab techs

Police Chief Ken Pate said officers have "stopped using field tests for heroin stamp bags because we don't know what really is in it"


By Chuck Biedka
The Valley News-Dispatch

TARENTUM, Pa. — Police and drug lab technicians in the Alle-Kiski Valley are trying to make sure they aren't accidentally among the victims of fentanyl-type drugs, because merely touching some of drugs with bare hands can be fatal.

Allegheny County Medical Examiner Karl Williams said the arrival of the illegal fentanyl compounds was “life changing” for medical examiners and lab staff.

This undated photo provided by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shows fake Oxycodone pills that are actually fentanyl that were seized and submitted to bureau crime labs. (Tommy Farmer/Tennessee Bureau of Investigation via AP)
This undated photo provided by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shows fake Oxycodone pills that are actually fentanyl that were seized and submitted to bureau crime labs. (Tommy Farmer/Tennessee Bureau of Investigation via AP)

“We are now keeping Narcan in the lab, and they wear protective clothing,” he said.

The powder often is so fine that particles can be absorbed into humans through the skin pores.

Officers have “stopped using field tests for heroin stamp bags because we don't know what really is in it,” said Upper Burrell police Chief Ken Pate, president of the Westmoreland County Police Chiefs Association. “Fentanyl often looks like heroin.”

Last summer, the DEA issued a warning to police. State police also added a safety component in police officer annual procedure updates.

Field tests have been an important part of presenting basic evidence at preliminary hearings, where a district judge decides whether there is enough evidence to hold charges for trial court.

“Now, officers are testifying about their experience to identify drugs and how the suspected illegal drugs were found,” Pate said.

“Our officers in the county are not routinely using field tests ... — the Narcotics Field Test Kits (NIK) tests, where you put the suspected drug in a vial and it turns color — because of the danger,” Pate said.

———

©2017 The Valley News-Dispatch (Tarentum, Pa.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Recommended for you

Join the discussion

Drug Interdiction / Narcotics

Sponsored by

Copyright © 2017 PoliceOne.com. All rights reserved.