HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Police officers in Dauphin County will no longer test drugs in the field or at their stations.
“We heard from various police departments,” Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said. “There was some concern, so we addressed it countywide and asked all of the police departments to forgo the field testing.”
Since the beginning of this year, Harrisburg police say they’ve seen increases in fentanyl and carfentanil.
“There is a concern because the fentanyl is about 100 times stronger than heroin itself and carfentanil is about 1,000 times stronger. We were concerned because both of these had been found in powdered form,” Harrisburg Police Captain Gabe Olivera said.
Olivera says no officers have been exposed to these drugs, but they do not want to risk them. The department says the drugs are so powerful, an officer can be harmed by touching or inhaling them.
“We’ve had to test a drug with several different kits,” Olivera said. “The first kit didn’t react, so we try something else that is similar, and now, you have to expose yourself three, four, five times until you find out what it actually is.”
Before making the decision, the district attorney’s office also contacted county judges to make sure they were on board with the change.
“Would they consider the case still going forward and not dismiss it if we didn’t have a field test, and they were all favorable,” Marsico said. “They understand the challenges the police face with this crisis right now.”
The change means officers will send the drugs to the state crime lab for testing. Marsico said the change will not put more work on the lab, as all cases go to the state police lab anyway.