Fentanyl threatens officers responding to overdoses

Posted at 8:01 PM, Aug 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-08 20:01:11-04

Officers all over Northeast Ohio have taken an oath to protect and serve.

But that same vow has left them vulnerable to the effects of a powerful drug.

"It is usually when we get called to an overdose where someone will be passed out and they will typically have a little bit of residue around, sometimes they'll still have little bindles of heroin with them," said Sergeant Dennis Bergansky with the Bedford Police.

But even more dangerous is the synthetic opioid fentanyl - a more potent and lethal drug, often laced with heroin. 

In the past few months, East Liverpool, Orwell and Cleveland Police claim officers were hospitalized after being exposed to fentanyl.

"We don't know. To us it looks the same," Sgt. Bergansky said.

It's stories like that out of neighboring cities that led the Bedford Police Department to implement some changes.

"Because of that we called the medical examiner's office and asked how we can protect our officers against this," said Bedford Deputy Chief Rick Suts.

Based on the M.E.'s recommendation, the department created kits equipped with high-grade masks, gloves and testing tools.

"We are having them dip into the powder, just a small amount, and they are putting them into these pre-made boxes that are already folded up and ready to go," Chief Suts said.

For Sgt. Bergansky, it hasn't fallen on deaf ears.

"I don't want to take that chance. I have a wife and kids and most of us do to go home to."

Bedford says although the new testing system will prolong filing charges, it is worth keeping officers safe.

The Garfield Heights, Willoughby Hills and Parma Police Departments have also switched up how officers handle unknown substances.