U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb and an Ohio Republican colleague have introduced legislation to create a new grant program so that police departments can buy screening devices that detect the highly dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl.
Lamb, D-18, Mount Lebanon, and U.S. Rep. David Joyce partnered on the Providing Officers with Electronic Resources (POWER) Act (H.R. 5871). If enacted, the legislation would initiate a grant program under the U.S. Department of Justice for law enforcement agencies to buy portable, chemical-testing devices.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced similar legislation in the Senate in April.
A statement from Lamb’s office said fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, is causing “record levels” of overdoses and “presents an unprecedented safety risk for officers and first responders.”
There have been widespread reports of police and first responders suffering overdoses after unwittingly coming into contact with the potent drug.
“Fentanyl is killing people every day in western Pennsylvania. Even being near it is dangerous,” Lamb, a former federal prosecutor, said in the statement. “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.”
Joyce, a former Geauga County prosecutor, said, “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.”
Besides protecting officers and first responders handling incidents, the legislation would also “streamline” the drug-testing process for police and help ease the backlog created by the increasing amount of drugs being seized in the opioid epidemic, according to Lamb’s statement.
Lamb’s release said the legislation is endorsed by several law enforcement associations, including the Ohio and Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police organizations.
Lamb, elected in a March special election, is running against U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-12, Sewickley, in the new 17th Congressional District, which includes all of Beaver County.