Senators want local law officers to go high tech

YOUNGSTOWN — Ohio’s two U.S. senators want to give local and state law enforcement access to the same high-tech devices border patrol and customs agents have to identify dangerous drugs at U.S. ports.

U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, are among several senators who in March reintroduced the Providing Officers with Electronic Resources (POWER) Act, which creates a new grant program in the U.S. Department of Justice to help police organizations secure the portable screeners.

Brown met with Mahoning County’s two top law enforcement officers Monday as he continues his push in Congress to pass the bipartisan legislation.

The devices are the same tools Brown secured for U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in 2018 in another act President Donald Trump signed into law in January.

Called the INTERDICT Act, it authorizes $15 million for, in part, new screening devices for use at U.S. ports and mail and express consignment facilities.

“Law enforcement officers are on the frontlines of our efforts to combat illegal fentanyl,” Brown said. “Following our success in securing new screening devices for federal law enforcement agents last year, we need to give Ohio officers the same tools to detect these dangerous drugs.”

Brown joined Youngstown police Chief Robin Lees and Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene to discuss what local police do to combat the opioid epidemic.

Said Lees, the act would help police “more efficiently conduct drug investigations” and alert police to dangerous substances in the field “so they can take every precaution necessary.”

Greene called the act an “invaluable resource.”

The devices use laser technology to analyze potentially harmful substances, even through some packaging, and identify those substances based on a library of thousands of compounds that are categorized within the device.