Training can reduce dangers to Arizona police officers handling drugs

Apr 1, 2019, 8:26 PM
(Getty Images Photo/Drew Angerer)...
(Getty Images Photo/Drew Angerer)
(Getty Images Photo/Drew Angerer)

PHOENIX – The case of two Phoenix police officers who were hospitalized last week after accidentally being exposed to a white powder comes as police departments are training officers and changing their policies on how to handle suspicious substances.

The unidentified officers were hospitalized Tuesday for a suspected fentanyl exposure, according to media reports. One officer felt ill after some of the white substance “flipped” on his face at a Phoenix police substation. But a toxicology report showed it was cocaine, not fentanyl, and the officers were later released.

The opioid crisis has led to a White House advisory to first responders on how to handle suspicious substances in the field. The chance of officers being accidentally exposed to fentanyl looms with the powerful synthetic opioid’s growing presence on the street, said Shannon Scheel, drug education director of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office – who calls fentanyl the “new bad drug.”

Because it is “supposedly 50 times more potent than heroin,” said Sgt. Ronald Elcock, a Tempe Police Department spokesman, extra precautions now have to be taken when officers encounter any powder suspected to be narcotics.

Police departments across the country, including Tempe and Glendale, are changing their policies and training, including no longer conducting tests of potential illegal drugs in the field, Scheel said.

Dr. Jerry Snow, a toxicologist at Banner-University Medical Center in Phoenix, said simple precautions can protect law-enforcement officers. Fentanyl can not absorbed through the skin, but the risk of accidental exposure heightens if it’s airborne.

The medical community has used fentanyl safely for decades, Snow said, with the risk of handling lowered by such precautionary measures as wearing gloves, not touching the eyes, nose or mouth and washing with soap and warm water if fentanyl comes into contact with skin.

The drug should not be handled in an enclosed space or where the drug could become airborne, said Snow, who also recommended that police departments avoid field testing drugs to prevent accidental exposure.

Scheel said Tempe police and other metro Phoenix departments stopped testing suspected narcotics in the field to reduce the chance of accidental exposure. Instead, Elcock said, Tempe police sends suspected narcotics to the Arizona Department of Public Safety to be tested.

The Glendale Police Department is training officers to address exposure risks, according to a statement from the department.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Twitter Photo/@katiehobbs)...
SuElen Rivera

Democratic Arizona gubernatorial Hobbs vows to protect women, providers following abortion ruling

Hours after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending almost 50 years of constitutional protections for abortions, Arizona candidate for governor Katie Hobbs vowed to protect women and health care providers if elected in this November's election.
8 hours ago
(File Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)...

Arizona to get $52K in settlement with Carnival Cruise Line over data breach

Arizona will receive just over $52,000 as part of a multistate settlement with Carnival Cruise Line over a data breach.
8 hours ago
(Scottsdale Community College Photo)...

Scottsdale Community College launching new pharmacy tech training program

Scottsdale Community College announced this week the launch of a pharmacy technician training program.
8 hours ago
(Photo by/KTAR News' Taylor Kinnerup)...

Protest at Capitol in Phoenix over abortion ruling broken up by tear gas

A protest at the Capitol in downtown Phoenix on Friday was ended after authorities used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
1 day ago
(KTAR News Photo/Jeremy Schnell)...

KTAR News celebrates 100th anniversary with first pitch, national anthem at Diamondbacks game

KTAR News 92.3 FM (KTAR) celebrated its 100th anniversary of being the Trusted Voice of the Valley with throwing the first pitch and singing the national anthem at the Diamondbacks game on Friday.
1 day ago
(AP Photo/Piper Hudspeth Blackburn, File)...
Danny Shapiro

Women’s health providers in Arizona halting abortions following Supreme Court ruling

Some women's health providers in Arizona are halting abortions following Friday's Supreme Court ruling that stripped away constitutional protections for women and left decisions on their legality to the states.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles


Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Training can reduce dangers to Arizona police officers handling drugs