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On-site drug testing a major risk for Maine officers to consider

A proposal by the Presque Isle police chief, urging cops to field test potentially lethal drugs with a chemical pouch, has stirred debated inside the department, after two high-ranking officers cited safety concerns over the widely discouraged practice.

Chief Matt Irwin informed the city’s 18-person department in an email sent late last month that officers should return to the department’s former practice of using “presumptive drug test pouches” to determine whether substances they seize during an arrest are, in fact, illegal drugs.

Following other Maine and national law enforcement agencies, Presque Isle police stopped using the pouches — in which officers mix suspected drugs with color-changing chemicals — because of the rise of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that can cause someone to overdose if the powder is inhaled or comes into contact with the skin.

Since 2016, the department has instead waited days or weeks for test results to come back from a lab while suspected drug offenders remain at large, sometimes hiding from police before they can come back with an arrest warrant, Irwin said.

The chief is now pushing to reinstate the practice in a move to get tougher on offenders, who feel emboldened by the department’s current “catch and release” practice, he said. The pouches would eliminate the waiting period, allowing police to immediately establish probable cause to make an arrest, he said.

To read the rest of “On-site drug testing a major risk for Maine officers to consider,” an article by contributing Bangor Daily News staff writer Callie Ferguson, please follow this link to the BDN online.

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