FOUNTAIN — Its a community issue that's now affecting the police officers who deal with it. The Fountain Police Department says one of their officers collapsed after being exposed to fentanyl during a call on Thursday.
Police say the officer responded to a three-car crash on I-25 in Fountain and was searching one of the cars on the scene after the driver was supposedly under the influence of drugs. While searching the car, police say the officer was exposed to fentanyl and passed out seconds later.
Commander Mark Cristiani with the Fountain Police Department said the fentanyl was in pill form, but the residue of the drug was most likely on the outside of the bag it was in.
"There was determined to be fentanyl on both the officer's gloves, some on his outer uniform. So of course, we destroy those things and get the officers new equipment. But mostly it was pills, I believe," he said.
He said it's not confirmed if the officer inhaled the drug or it was absorbed through his skin. What they do know is it is becoming a bigger problem every day.
"It's not the police officer's choice to go there and have to deal with fentanyl, but it's part of our job. So we do, but there are the unintended consequences that we could have happened, like what happened the other day," he said.
The challenging part is officers never know when they're going to encounter it, and unlike paramedics, they may not have the right protection when they rush to the scene. Cristiani said the officer was wearing gloves when he was exposed, but things like protective glasses and masks are not part of their regular gear when responding to a call.
"You don't think that you're gonna go to a traffic crash, and then handling fentanyl at that moment," he said.
Lieutenant John Ferg with the Colorado Springs Fire Department said fentanyl is one of the hazardous materials he deals with when responding to calls.
"If it's a medical call a traffic accident, we'll wear latex gloves, eye protection, and a mask to protect our face," he said. "It's just something that we're kind of, as the fire department, really keen on these days because it is such a prevalent and common experience out in out in the streets."
He says powder fentanyl is more dangerous than pill form because inhaling the substance can affect you faster. Even with all the safety precautions on the job, he's still on high alert.
"The amount that we've been exposed to is definitely increasing," he said.
The Fountain Police Department said the officer has been released from the hospital and is now back on full duty.
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