Supporting Ohio law enforcement officers


By Sen. Sherrod Brown

Contributing columnist

In mid-May, we observed National Police Week — a week to honor the law enforcement officers who sacrifice each day to keep our communities safe.

At memorial services around Ohio and in Washington, three Ohioans who made the ultimate sacrifice in the last year were commemorated: Officer Timothy James Unwin III, Deputy Sheriff Marcus Ziegler, and Deputy Sheriff Joshua Hamilton.

Tragically, we also already know of two Ohioans who will be honored at next year’s services — Lieutenant Rodney Osborne, of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, and Euclid PD Officer Jacob Derbin, who just last month was ambushed and murdered while responding to a call. Officer Derbin’s family, Chief of Police Scott Meyer, the Euclid Police Department, and the entire community are in our prayers.

As part of Police Week, law enforcement officers from Ohio come to Washington to advocate for what they need to keep themselves and our communities safe when doing their jobs.

Our law enforcement officers are on the frontlines, facing constant danger as they respond to calls. One of those ever-present dangers is fentanyl and the devastating effect it’s having on Ohioans.

Earlier this month, President Biden signed our FEND Off Fentanyl Act into law, targeting the entire illicit fentanyl supply chain, from the chemical suppliers in China to the cartels that traffic the drugs from Mexico. By targeting the illicit profits that fuel drug trafficking, we are supporting law enforcement efforts to protect our communities from the devastating effects of fentanyl.

This was a major step, and I’m working to build on this progress.

Law enforcement seized more than 115 million pills containing illicit fentanyl last year — 44 million more than the previous year. As the amount of fentanyl entering our country disguised as prescription medication increases, it only gets harder for law enforcement to detect it in the field.

We passed the INTERDICT Act to get portable, hand-held screening devices for Customs and Border Protection agents, and former President Trump signed it into law. They can use this specialized technology to detect fentanyl at the border. And last year, we passed the PREVENT Act to provide evidentiary drug containment devices to frontline Customs and Border Protection agents.

We need to give our local and state law enforcement officers access to the same tools.

That’s why I’ve introduced two bipartisan bills to do that: the POWER Act with Senator Cotton, a Republican of Arkansas, and the Protecting First Responders from Secondary Exposure Act with Senator Grassley, a Republican from Iowa. Both the POWER and the Protecting First Responders from Secondary Exposure Acts were introduced in the House and championed by Rep. David Joyce.

Because of the massive quantity of drugs these officers are seizing, state and local testing labs face big backlogs. Sometimes local departments must wait months for results — and that means delays in investigations and prosecutions. Equipping our officers with these devices will limit delays and help protect both law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.

These are both bipartisan bills with large coalitions supporting them — we have the backing of national and state law enforcement groups, including the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, the Ohio Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, and more.

We need to pass these bills to support law enforcement in their fight against fentanyl and give them the tools they need to keep Ohio safe.

The writer is a U.S. senator from Ohio.

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