Orange Police Chief: No officers injured in fentanyl contamination

  • A biohazard remediation team responded to decontaminate a police cruiser exposed to fentanyl in Orange. ORANGE POLICE DEPARTMENT

Staff Writer
Published: 1/29/2020 10:44:19 PM
Modified: 1/29/2020 10:44:14 PM

ORANGE — No officers were injured in an incident where a police cruiser was contaminated with fentanyl, Police Chief James Sullivan confirmed Wednesday.

According to Sullivan, a woman was arrested in Orange Monday after allegedly shoplifting at the local Walmart. A “thorough search” of her person at the Orange Police Station did not come up with the fentanyl that was later discovered when the suspect was transferred to the Franklin County House of Correction in Greenfield.

“It created an issue at the House of Correction and it created an issue here,” Sullivan said, adding that the woman admitted the substance was fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, and is increasingly added to heroin to increase that opioid’s potency, according to police.

Contact with even small amounts of the odorless, tasteless drug, through inhalation or touch, can cause a number of health problems, including respiratory depression and even death. Contact can be “quick, and in the right circumstances, deadly. It is a very dangerous thing to come in contact with,” according to a statement from the Orange Police Department. “If a dog sniffs a bit of powdered fentanyl, the size of a poppy seed, it can kill them.”

Following the discovery of the fentanyl, Sullivan said the police immediately put the vehicle out of use until a bio-hazard remediation team from Trauma Services LLC, based in Mansfield, could come decontaminate the vehicle.

“In a cruiser, you’re driving around, you have people in the cruiser you’re transporting, or we have to give people a ride somewhere,” Sullivan said, adding that police K-9s and other dogs “do what they do” and sniff things, and could also be at risk of exposure.

Sullivan said he does not know how much the decontamination of the vehicle will cost, and it’s unclear if the arrested woman will have to pay for any of it. He said decontamination can be especially expensive because the bio-hazard team has to send at least two fully suited workers due to the risk of one of them getting exposed.

There is no criminal charge for potentially endangering others and contaminating a vehicle with fentanyl, Sullivan said. A charge of defacing the vehicle may be applicable, but the Police Department does not intend to bring that charge, Sullivan said.

“They need help more than they need to be punished,” Sullivan said. “The end game is that the person gets the help they need.”

Sullivan said he hopes the court system will direct people with addictions into treatment and wants the public to realize the “real issue.”

“I want to focus on the fact that this is a real issue out here. The issue does exist and it’s dangerous,” Sullivan said.

This was the first time the Orange Police Department has had a fentanyl contamination incident, according to Sullivan.

However, such incidents have become more prevalent in recent years, according to Associated Press articles.

Last year, several Easthampton Police officers were taken to the hospital after becoming ill following exposure to fentanyl. In September, four officers in Wilmington were hospitalized after a similar incident.

And, more recently, a K-9 police dog in Smithfield, R.I., had to be treated with the opioid overdose reversal medication naloxone — commonly known as Narcan — after its heart rate dropped to dangerously low levels following a drug bust in December.

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.


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