Law enforcement officers have a job that potentially puts them in dangerous situations every day. But one scenario that probably doesn’t quickly come to mind is the handling of seized illegal drugs.

Handling drugs creates risks because of the chemicals contained in the illicit substances. For example, heroin cut with fentanyl is particularly potent. If it comes in contact with the skin, it can cause a person to experience severe breathing or cardiac problems. Incidents of officers collapsing after coming into contact with fentanyl have been reported.

Officers can’t be 100 percent sure which chemicals the drugs they seize actually contain without testing, but the risk of accidental exposure when handling substances to determine which drug was seized is a concern.

That factored into the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department’s decision to seek a tool to minimize such risks. The TruNarc Handheld Narcotics Analyzer scans for more than 370 illicit substances in a single test, which means officers don’t have to directly open drug packages to determine what they are.

The analyzer will be kept in the department, but it will be made available to the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team, which consists of sheriff’s deputies and Columbus Police Department officers.

The cost isn’t cheap. At $26,000, it will require tapping into several funding sources to pay for it. But having a tool such as the narcotics analyzer is a sensible investment. People who are counted on to protect and serve local residents should have the means to reduce their own risk of harm as well.

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