LARGO, FL [April 18, 2013]: Twenty-two law enforcement officers were trained in Salt Lake City, Utah to use a new piece of field-portable chemistry equipment for their drug identification program. Use of this new equipment, the FLIR Griffin 460, expands the highly successful program already in place in Utah’s Department of Public Safety, the Field Investigation Drug Officer (FIDO) program.
The FLIR Griffin 460 is a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer (GC-MS), which is commonly referred to as the gold standard for identifying chemicals. GC-MS is standard laboratory test equipment that provides confirmatory proof of a chemical’s identification. In this case, it will be used to identify drugs of abuse, including synthetic drugs, which have become a major issue for police across the country.
Utah’s program has been in place since 2006 and has been highly successful. Thanks to the FIDO program, controlled substance cases declined nearly fifty percent through 2011. Cases began to climb again in 2012, a rise that is attributed to synthetic drugs known as ‘bath salts’ or ‘spice’. These drugs require sophisticated technology to identify them, such as the GC-MS.
In addition to efficient case management, the FIDO program has created a strong bridge between law enforcement officers and laboratory staff who provide support. Training officers to use the technology in local field offices, rather than sending every drug sample to the laboratory, helps to streamline investigations as well as adjudication of cases.
“Our drug investigation officers are very interested in this expansion of the testing program,” said Jay Henry, Utah Department of Public Safety laboratory director. “They didn’t have a tool to screen bath salts or synthetic cannabinoids in the field. This gives them an advanced tool right in the station that they can use immediately for investigative and/or preliminary hearing purposes.”
“Utah officers were trained to operate the Griffin 460 using a prep-less sample introduction (PSI) probe that allows them to select a trace amount of an unknown substance to test without having to perform complex sample preparation,” says Jim Burdick, vice president of FLIR Systems’ detection division. “Simplifying this step in the procedure greatly reduces the chances that the sample will be accidentally contaminated and also allows testing to be conducted outside of a traditional laboratory environment.”
Prior to acquiring the GC-MS, the officers used only colorimetric tests in the field to screen unknown chemical materials for controlled substances, which when exposed to a particular type of drug or chemical will change color.
“Colorimetric tests are great,” said Kirk Grates, physical scientist from the National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC) who led the training. “But they are only presumptive. The Griffin 460 provides laboratory-quality results, so officers know exactly what they have collected and can proceed with their investigation with greater confidence.”
In the Utah program, this tool does not replace the laboratory or forensic chemist. The laboratory’s role is essential in the management, training and maintenance of the program, but it benefits from FIDO because it can redirect resources to operate more efficiently, be more engaged with clients and provide exceptional turnaround times.
FLIR Government Systems, a division of FLIR Systems, Inc., is a world leader in the design, qualification, and manufacture of CBRNE threat detection sensors, ground surveillance radars, thermal imaging and stabilized EO/IR systems, and threat detection systems integration. FLIR’s products are used for a wide variety of airborne, maritime, land based and man-portable applications including national sovereignty and critical facility protection; force protection; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); combat search and rescue (CSAR); border control and drug interdiction; navigation safety, maritime patrol, forward observation, training, targeting and fire control, and laser weapons designation. FLIR Systems is headquartered in Portland, Oregon, with service and manufacturing facilities worldwide. Visit the company’s web site at www.FLIR.com/GS.