Bennet, Gardner Introduce Legislation 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

Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner today joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing legislation to provide state and local law enforcement with high-tech devices to detect and identify dangerous drugs like fentanyl. The Providing Officers with Electronic Resources (POWER) Act would create a new grant program through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to assist state and local law enforcement organizations in securing these high-tech, portable screening devices.

“As fentanyl and other synthetic opioids pour into our communities, we have a responsibility to equip our police officers with everything they require to better identify these dangerous substances and keep people safe,” Bennet said. “The POWER Act will help extend the benefit of modern, portable screening devices to our police departments on the front lines of the opioid epidemic in Colorado and across the country.”

“Colorado’s first responders are key to combatting the opioid epidemic and need the best possible tools to identify dangerous illegal synthetic drugs like fentanyl,” Gardner said. “Bipartisan legislation like the POWER Act will help our local law enforcement detect these potent drugs that have infiltrated communities across our country. I will continue working across the aisle to deliver solutions and fight back against this crisis that has claimed the lives of too many Americans.”

High-tech screening 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 help address the backlog of drugs awaiting laboratory identification, which would 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. Because the devices can quickly and effectively alert officers to dangerous substances in the field, they also would help ensure officers can test and handle substances like fentanyl safely. Instant results would 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.