LANCASTER, Pa -- Lancaster City Bureau of Police take additional measures to keep their officers and K-9 officers safe when they encounter drugs like Fentanyl and Carfentanil - like dedicating an entire closet to drug testing and purchasing additional gear.
Police officers say they never know what kind of situation they'll encounter or what drugs could be there so they have to have proactive gear, like gloves and ziplock bags, on hand, and even Narcan for their K-9 officers in case of an accidental overdose.
Police stay protected when officers and their K-9 officers approach a building or car where they suspect there could be drugs.
"I always do a walk through first," explained Officer Steven Alexander with Lancaster Bureau of Police.
Police officers, like Alexander, increasingly see more people using drugs like Fentanyl or Carfentanil or narcotics laced with those substances.
"A lot of times, it's used as a cutting agent or an additive to the powdered heroin," explained Lt. Bill Hickey of Lancaster Bureau of Police.
That could be dangerous for officers and their K-9 units if consumed or even inhaled. Lancaster City K-9 handlers have a fully loaded drug kit for their pooches just in case, and they added Narcan to it a little more than a year ago.
"The Narcan we do use is 4 milligram; it's already preloaded," explained Officer Alexander.
Officer Alexander handles 4-year-old, Axel.
Besides the equipment, he says he always looking for open drug packets and needles at scenes to make sure Axel doesn't accidentally ingest drugs when he's poking his nose around. To keep themselves safe, Lancaster City Police recently added a room to safely test drugs, stocked with a drug testing machine.
"The whole idea is that it's away from their face, and it's inside this environment so the particular matter will get sucked up into the fan, in case it gets loose," added Lt. Hickey.
They also added ziplock baggies to limit officer exposure to drugs.
"You can take something as simple as a ziplock bag, and whatever that expected substance is would go in here, and then seal the bag so you're not worried about getting that matter out, and if you get a good seal on the bag, you're not worried about the substance getting airborne," said Lt. Hickey.
It's those measures that Lt. Hickey says help keep Lancaster City police officers safe when they really can't predict what kind of drugs they or one of their 4 K-9s may come into contact with.
"You can't look at it and know what's in it; you treat everything as if it has the worst possible exposure," said Lt. Hickey.
Lancaster City Police are able to protect their dogs and themselves in part because of donations to the Lancaster City Police Foundation.