SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Police on the front lines of drug investigations are constantly in danger of coming in contact with potentially deadly substances like fentanyl and carfentanil.
More and more agencies are looking into ways to protect their officers, including the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team.
We spoke to CNT about the dangers of drug exposure for their officers in our Opioid Frontlines story last November. Since then, leaders within CNT have looked at ways to better protect their own, especially with all of the dangerous and potentially deadly substances they come in contact with daily.
Fortunately, no CNT officers have been affected by drugs like fentanyl or carfentanil, but the agency's leadership knew they needed to change how they catalog and test the drugs they find on the streets, especially since they keep finding fentanyl in heroin and pills seized right here in our community.
"Prior to this, we would do things on tables close to other workstations, places where civilians would go by, places where our guests in the building might walk by," said CNT Lt. George Gundich.
To keep fentanyl and carfentanil particles from going airborne, CNT invested in a duct-less drug handling station. In it is a vacuum strong enough to catch those harmful drugs that might get kicked up, trapping them in a heavy-duty filter.
"This is a great reminder that stands out that there is a danger to this. Sometimes you can let your guard down by just putting on gloves and thinking you're safe. Here, there are certain steps to do, and they know when they enter this room, it's all business, and they can work with this machine to do everything right," Lt. Gundich said. "It could take months to get back information from GBI because they're doing everything for the state. Again, they do a great job, but we need to take some of the pressure off them too."
One other advantage to having this new technology is it speeds up the process identifying drugs and charging suspects accordingly and in less time. The machine is something the lieutenant believes will start popping up more and more in police departments across the country.
It costs around $2,500, and the office says it's well worth the cost to ensure the safety of all employees and visitors inside CNT.