How law enforcement officials conduct business across the nation is changing thanks to fentanyl, and it’s no different in Fruitland where an officer recently accidentally inhaled the substance while processing evidence.
Fruitland Police Chief, JD Huff brought the seriousness of the situation to light during the Nov. 25 City Council meeting. He told the council one of his officers was recovering from an encounter with a substance believed to be fentanyl. The officer was processing evidence and while moving a bag some of the contents leaked out, according to Sgt. Ben Key of the Fruitland Police Department.
Key recounted the incident in a recent phone interview with the Argus. He said the officer felt as if he had inhaled some grains of the substance and was immediately evaluated by medical personnel following the suspected inhalation. Key said he wasn’t certain the substance was fentanyl, it also could have been heroin.
Oftentimes, Key says, heroin is cut with fentanyl.
Fortunately, the officer ended up being OK, according to Key.
Concerns about these types of drugs are surfacing as law enforcement is seeing this threat make a repeated appearance.
Key explains how routine traffic stops have become more dangerous as a result of these drugs. The typical approach to evaluating a vehicle stopped for possible possession of illegal narcotics was to run a K-9 around the perimeter and have the dog check the interior of the vehicle.
However, due to the dangers of ingestion, officials are exploring alternatives.
According to Key, this procedure needed to be updated because, “even a couple grains of Fentanyl can kill a dog.”
The dangers posed by drugs of this nature are so prevalent that Key carries Narcan in his patrol car, enough for him and a K-9 officer should either come into contact with fentanyl or substances like it. Narcan, when used on time and appropriately, is used to reverse the effects of a drug overdose.
As far back as December of 2017, law enforcement agencies and paramedics throughout the nation were just beginning to receive overdose reversal kits. These kits are employed by paramedics and officers in the instance of an opioid overdose.
Key described a recent incident in which 10 grams of fentanyl was recovered by Fruitland Police. This amount may not sound like a lot, but Key said that “seven grains of fentanyl can kill an adult.” The amount confiscated by police was significantly more than this — with about 15 grains per gram, one gram could be enough to kill two people.
When asked if this was a rare occurrence, Key replied that in his 10 years on the force, this is the only time he knew of that fentanyl was recovered locally.
Lt. Andy Creech of the Payette County Sheriff’s Office told the Argus via email that “our deputies have received awareness training about fentanyl and the effects of it.”
Creech said deputies have specific procedures they must adhere to in order to avoid direct contact with these harmful substances, including wearing latex gloves.
Key said that for a long time officers were told to “be aware” [then] “all of a sudden, it’s here.”