Opioid epidemic could be putting police officers at risk

Posted at 11:01 PM, Jun 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-16 06:37:27-04

Fentanyl is stirring up a concerning conversation across the country among law enforcement.  Experts say fentanyl is part of the opioid epidemic and it could put law enforcement officers at risk.

It’s so dangerous a police officer in Ohio overdosed after brushing fentanyl powder off his uniform. He reportedly made contact with the fentanyl during a drug bust.

“It’s becoming a real hazard for police officers in the field,” Lt. Dana Coston with Cape Coral Police said. “We’re getting the word out to our officers as quickly as possible.”

Lt. Coston with Cape Coral Police says the incident in Ohio has sparked conversation among his department.  “I wish I could say it’s a shock to us, but unfortunately it’s just the latest thing we have to be aware of,” Lt. Coston said.

“Our number one concern is making sure we have equipment that is adequate to protect our officers and making sure the officers know what to look for if they’re out in the field and come upon something.”

Dr. Martin Zfaz tells Four in Your Corner fentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine. It’s considered so powerful, it can be lethal even in tiny amounts.  “It’s one of the most powerful drugs in the market today,” Dr. Zfaz said. “The worst part is it’s available easily on the streets.”

Dr. Zfaz says Fentanyl is meant to help patients with chronic pain when all other options have been exhausted but dealers mix fentanyl powder with lower quality heroin to sell ill on the streets.  “It can go through our skin, it can go though our nose, they make lollipops and skin patches with fentanyl,” Dr. Zfaz said.

Local agencies like the Cape Coral Police Department are taking proactive steps to protect their officers.  “We’re getting a new type of glove in for our officers. It’s going to be issued out so it doesn’t allow to pass through the pores in latex gloves or standard gloves,” Lt. Dana Coston said. “It’s absolutely a concern. Police officers have to be in all kinds of places, conducting searches, looking for contraband, etc and that often results in our personnel being exposed to biohazards and chemicals that can be really harmful.”