MARION, Ohio (WCMH) – Central Ohio is testing a new tool to improve the safety and speed of drug investigations. Thursday morning, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced a pilot program for faster drug analysis.
The Marion Police Department will be among the first agencies in the state to begin using a portable mass spectrometer. The device can detect trace levels of dangerous drugs using the same technology of a much larger machine at the state’s BCI labs.
“It’s literally a crime lab in your hand,” explained Attorney General Dave Yost. “This is a lightweight version that only tests for a few different things. But they’re things cops need to know about, things that are dangerous contraband. We’re talking fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine.”
Marion Police Chief Jay McDonald hopes the machine will help his officers quickly identify potentially deadly drugs and limit their exposure to them.
“We’ve instructed our officers, prior to the advent of this machine, not to open packages, not to field test drugs anymore because of the high degree of danger,” McDonald said. “[With the new machine] we don’t have to handle drugs by signing them out of the property room, driving them down to Bowling Green or London to get tested by BCI. We can do it here without the transport and the risk that is involved.”
Marion, Circleville and Sidney police departments were chosen by the Attorney General to pilot the program because of their position in the state and their communities’ devastation by drugs.
“We have it on the supply side and on the demand side,” McDonald said. “We have people who have decided to locate into our community from Detroit and Chicago and Columbus, who decide that they want to sell drugs here.”
Yost envisions the rapid results of the portable mass spectrometers helping prosecutors quickly prove which drugs are being bought and sold, so they can ask the court for higher bonds and more intensive drug treatment.
“We’re talking courtroom-ready results in minutes,” Yost said. “We validate the results, it’s 100 percent accurate. And it’s just as good as putting it on the bench at the lab.”
McDonald added, “It will get low-level users into treatment faster, it will keep high-level sellers in jail longer and it will enable our people to do it more safely. So we look at this as a win from all directions.”
The Police Chief plans to keep the single device at department headquarters and share the resource with neighboring communities. If the pilot program goes well, Yost hopes to give a machine to almost every agency in the state.
“We would like to see this be the normal practice around Ohio,” he said.