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"An invisible death:" How deputy's brush with death made it safer for all cops

Under a new law, signed this week by Gov. Ron DeSantis, exposing first responders to illicit fentanyl is now a felony.
Posted at 7:35 PM, Apr 10, 2024

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — Collier County Sheriff’s Corporal Robert Palmer says he doesn’t remember much from the night in April of last year when he was exposed to a near-fatal amount of illicit fentanyl.

Body worn camera video, released by the Sheriff’s office, shows Palmer receiving two doses of Narcan, the drug overdose reversal medication, to save his life.

“This is an invisible death that is now stalking the scenes that we go to,” Palmer said in testimony to the Florida state senate.

The Collier County law enforcer’s story was part of the inspiration of new legislation meant to protect first responders from fentanyl.

"My scene wasn’t anything that had to deal with drugs. It was a domestic disturbance that came from dispatch. And next thing you know, I’m falling out from an overdose to fentanyl,” said Palmer.

The new protections, signed this week by Gov. Ron DeSantis, make it a felony to expose a first responder to illicit fentanyl.

Additional punishment would also be handed down if the responder is injured or suffers from an overdose.

“We’re gonna throw the book at you,” DeSantis said at a bill signing this week. “And we’re gonna hold you accountable. We want to make sure that the people who wear the uniform are protected.”

Critics of the new law say the risk to exposure is low.

But Palmer told lawmakers he sees fentanyl everywhere.

“This is invisible,” said Palmer. “We have no way to see, we have to way to react to this. Until, God forbid, we get exposed to this and the symptoms set in.”