Less Violent Raids, For Their Sake If Not Yours
November 28, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Imagine something practically invisible, so potent that a tiny trace of it could work its way through the skin on your hand, into your blood stream and into your brain where it could stop your breathing or give you an overdose. It’s called Fentanyl. It can be 50 to a hundred times more potent than morphine.
Recently three K9 dogs thought to have possibly picked it up through the pads of their feet had a close brush with death after a police raid on a suspected distributor’s home. The dogs exhibited symptoms of overdosing, and then were rushed to a hospital and given Naxalone, an opioid antagonist. Luckily they survived.
In September of this year 11 SWAT officers in Hartford Connecticut were exposed to powdered Fentanyl and heroin kicked into the air by a flash-bang grenade tossed into a building they were raiding. They are lucky to be alive, and it’s likely they’ll think twice before they want to go for the grenade next time.
News about an opioid epidemic and a flood of Fentanyl entering the U.S. through China and Mexico is becoming more prevalent. That, and instances of cops being exposed during raids and searches, are going to serve as notice to the police that a change in the way they raid suspected drug houses is needed.
Fentanyl labs, unlike meth labs which tend to exist in secluded areas where the harsh chemical smells invite unwanted attention, can be in a house, apartment or even a storage unit. They often consist of nothing more than a pill press and containers of powdered drug. That alone is enough of a threat to innocent neighbors and passers-by. Add a bunch of pumped-up cops with battering rams and grenades to the equation and the potential for serious danger is increased substantially.
It seems that Fentanyl is a now being cut with cocaine and heroin, increasing the danger for people who might think of themselves as sophisticated, recreational users. The little trip to powder a nose at an upscale cocktail party could turn fatal. Cutting this drug with more common so-called recreational drugs will spread it rapidly, and once a batch of it hits the intended target market, the overdoses are rapid and plentiful as people in Indiana and Ohio saw earlier this year.
Thus far, as a whole, police do not seem to have changed their modus operandi for raiding suspected traffickers. Outside of some bulletins, “safety alerts” or warning videos, there does not seem to be any national or even state-wide effort to systemize officer safety protocols for this threat.
That could be changing as soon as more police and the DEA take notice. Police are not known for concern about the safety of occupants when they raid a house, but when it comes to themselves, they stop at nothing to assure their safety. This could be a benefit to everyone.
You can’t raid a house wearing hazmat gear. It’s bulky and inhibits hearing and vision. Even advanced tactical SWAT gear is not airtight. The cops are not going to show-up with a drop-down helicopter deployed bio-containment tent just so they can blow-up some flash-bangs and kick in the door. They are going to have to adopt a gentler, safer way to make entry.
Any cop with half a brain might want to re-think the tried-and-true method of rampaging through a suspect’s home, sweeping everything off shelves and dumping the contents of drawers to the floor. In Franklin County, Missouri, undercover cops are being told not to touch any drugs with their hands and to accept them only in bags or aluminum foil.
Sgt. Mike Toles of the Indiana State Police says:
We’re telling our people, ‘If someone is telling you this is methamphetamine or heroin, don’t take their word for it. Assume it is fentanyl.
It seems for now police are not able to keep this drug from coming in to the country. If it keeps on coming, they will most certainly be forced to change the way they approach enforcement. And while it’s not their purpose, a more cautious, less violent approach will serve to make raids safer for everyone.