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Florida International University launches free online officer safety course targeting dangerous fentanyl and opioid drug trends in America

Florida International University launches free online officer safety course targeting dangerous fentanyl and opioid drug trends in America

February 15, 2024 at 4:29pm

Florida International University is launching an officer safety course, developed to help agencies use technology for rapid deployment of field analysis of dangerous drugs, including opioids like fentanyl.

Between 2020 and 2021, opioid-related deaths rose by 15% according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The FIU project is working to arm police officers at the scene with field portable technology that can instantly and accurately identify opioids and other drugs. This could provide prosecutors with reliable results to indict and convict illicit drug offenders.

Funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), FIU developed the program with police agencies across the country. The training takes less than an hour and can be accessed online, reducing agency budget and time constraints. The course also introduces officers to proper methods to collect, document, and store evidence

“This was truly a partnership between FIU and the pilot agencies,” said David Sylvester, director of Forensic Law Enforcement Programs at FIU’s Global Forensic and Justice Center. “Here at FIU, we could dedicate the lab time and personnel to the test and evaluation and procedure development. The feedback from the field is what made this a useful tool for agencies combatting the opioid crisis.”

Implementing the safety training and new tools introduced in the Academic-based Drug Field Testing and Training Initiative, new analogs of fentanyl or opioids can be determined within minutes at the scene. The unique chemical signature for the drugs can be used to link drug dealers or manufacturers to overdoses and deaths. Backlogs in forensic chemical and toxicology labs can create a wait of up to eight months. The field portable technology can confirm results in less than a minute, providing officers with probable cause and strong investigative leads.

“In investigations, minutes matter,” Sylvester said. “It’s why these new technologies exist. Because the faster agencies can get the drugs off the streets, the less likely they will impact someone in the community.”

Officer and public safety were both taken into consideration. Previous field technology required officers to be within arm’s distance of the unknown substances to place into presumptive colorimetric tests. The technology used now is like a speed radar, a point-and-aim instrument that can detect the chemical composition of an unknown substance from up to six feet away in seconds.

While under the pilot program, three agencies have successfully implemented these instruments in their fieldwork, making potential arrests and strengthening cases against suspected manufacturers.

Starting February 15, 2024, the online training portion is available here for free for any first responder agency or organization that may benefit from this information.
Media assets are available here.