A Warning About Field Testing Drugs from the DEA
The DA’s and Administrators Weigh In on Field Testing Drugs
But, the dangerous thinking of police administrators and DA’s that can’t change with the times is also held by some officers. One officer wrote, “There is not a reason to stop…just wear protective items…if an officer is so paranoid of field testing how does he/she conduct a search of anything??? Shall we just stop doing police work too??” No one is asking officers to stop doing their job. We are merely asking them to be smarter about how they do it. Protective clothing is one step and a step I have written about and taught about frequently. You should continue to do your job, but you should be doing it with the proper protective equipment and all testing should be done in a lab.
The Pipe Bomb Analogy
One analogy I use when teaching fentanyl safety for officers and first responders is a comparison of fentanyl with a pipe bomb. If an officer discovers a pipe bomb in the field, does the officer take the bomb apart to test the gun powder inside? No. The officer has training and experience in pipe bombs and makes an arrest and takes action based on his training and experience. The officer makes an arrest based off of probable cause and experts come in and handle the bomb evidence. Officers handle drugs way more than they handle pipe bomb calls. In my 29 years, I only had a handful of pipe bomb incidents. But, in 29 years I had thousands of incidents where I handled drugs. You wouldn’t take the pipe bomb apart because it could kill you. Now, handling drugs the way we used to can kill you just the same. Another analogy is an incident involving hazardous materials. Would you handle a Hazmat scene without protecting yourself? Do officers in the field have the equipment and training in testing hazardous materials in the field? Not many.
How to Overcome Old School Thinking
A Field Testing Alternative
Several companies have come out with portable spectrometers that can detect the presence of drugs without the officer handling drugs. These are great alternatives to old school field testing. However, these spectrometers are very expensive. One solution would be to buy one for officers that is kept in the evidence processing room (the bag and tag room) and one for narcotics detectives. Money can come from asset seizure funds.