Police officers in one Pennsylvania county will no longer do field tests of drugs they confiscate from suspects due to the dangers of fentanyl and the fears associated with accidental overdoes of the drug, reports PennLive.
From now on, drugs that officers confiscate in Dauphin County, home of Harrisburg, will go straight to the Pennsylvania State Police lab for testing.
Previously, field tests were used to initially identify suspected controlled substances and act as placeholders at preliminary hearings until final lab results came back, which can take up to two months. Doing the field tests also helped avoid unnecessary arrests.
However, law enforcement agency leaders in Dauphin County were recently told by Ed Marisco, the county’s district attorney, that the danger posed to officers from dealing with suspected drugs during field tests now exceeds the value of any possible evidence from the tests.
Fentanyl overtook heroin last year as the top cause of deadly drug overdoses in Pennsylvania last year, killing 2,395 in the state. The drug and other related substances are, depending on the specific drug, anywhere from 100 to 100,000 times stronger than morphine.
Marisco told PennLive that preliminary hearings for suspects will now emphasize officers using their training and experience to testify about substances, and that magisterial district judges in the county are okay with the new policy.