State warnings are prompting law enforcement agencies to curtail testing for drugs in the field

Posted at 6:42 PM, Jul 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-01 08:19:24-04

State and local law enforcement agencies are no longer testing drugs in the field due to the danger of officers becoming exposed to popular, potent drugs.

"It's another level of concern for us everyday in our job that we have to watch out for," said Sgt. Tim Hoffman of the State Highway Patrol's Elyria post.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has issued two bulletins in the past two months warning police about handling drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil, two extremely powerful drugs that are being mixed with heroin.

Fentanyl is 40-50 times stronger than heroin. Carfentanil is even stronger than fentanyl. It is used by veterinarians on large, wild animals. Any small exposure to these drugs may cause the person to have breathing and cognitive problems or even overdose and die.

"We have gone to a stance where we're not going to field test stuff," said Hoffman. "We're just going to send it straight to the lab. If a bag of white substance is sealed, we're not going to unseal it. We've actually gone to double-bagging everything we send to the lab."

The state bulletins advise sending any evidence directly to laboratories for testing.

The State Highway Patrol said it sends all of its evidence to its own state laboratory. Lorain Police said it is doing more laboratory testing as it has become more cautious of field testing.

"With the warnings we've been getting in the last two months about the fentanyl, there's no reason to even try to field test it at this point," said Hoffman. "It's not as important as staying safe."