BANGOR – The battle between drug dealers and police is dangerous for more reasons than you might realize. But recently cops were given a leg up in the never-ending battle.
Illegal drug use has evolved rapidly in Maine. Fortunately for police officers in Bangor, the tools used to fight those crimes have also evolved. Enter TruNarc, a state-of-the-art testing machine.
“People are mixing ingredients of stuff, and now some of the stuff, if you’re exposed to it, it can kill you; you, me, whoever,” said officer Jason McAmbley. “This tool does make it a lot easier for officers on the street dealing with people that have drugs, and, you know, there’s just new stuff coming up all the time.”
The TruNarc testing system looks small, but it houses $25,000 worth of technology bought with forfeited drug money, and it’s used to safely and accurately test substances brought in during an investigation. The department first used the machine on June 1st and, between then and June 28th, it had already been used 11 times.
“We can charge somebody based on the results of this machine,” added McAmbley. “It still gets tested at the lab, because you need that for court, [but] it’s just easier for us, and it’s safer because of the way you test with this thing.”
It uses a laser to test suspected drugs, meaning physical contact isn’t necessary. But even with the machine, opioids like fentanyl are so potent, officers are required to be at the ready if the worst happens.
Officers test suspected drugs in pairs; one does the physical testing, while his/her partner stands behind with a dose of Narcan in case a harmful drug gets on the officer and causes an overdose. And it’s not just a hypothetical; McAmbley says officers in other states have brushed powder off of their uniforms, picked up a deadly amount of opioid on their skin, and overdosed just seconds later.
With that in mind, why would people take the risk of using such deadly drugs?
“When the reports go out of, ‘hey, there’s a bad batch of [a drug],’ it creates a surge in popularity, said McAmbley. “[They say,] ‘oh my gosh, this must be really good stuff because somebody almost died.’ These people don’t think it’s gonna be them. They don’t wanna die, they just wanna get high.”
As long as there are people willing to prey on the vulnerable in Bangor, those charged with guarding the city will be on the front lines with a new weapon.