Are cops nearly dying from just touching fentanyl during drug busts?

It didn’t take writer Alex Pareene very much in the way of digging to find out that cop-vs-fentanyl stories are overblown except in the most extreme circumstances. So he called Kansas City’s Channel 5 to see if they were going to follow-up their melodramatic story about a cop having a fentanyl-related brush with death with a real news story in which the reporters talked to actual experts (as opposed to just the cops). Experts who would say that it was unlikely that the cop vs. fentanyl incident happened the way the cops said it did:

It was relatively easy to get the news director of KCTV5 in Kansas City on the line. I am just putting that here for the record, if you happen to be a Kansas City resident. There’s a phone number on the website.

It was not easy to get the news director of KCTV to answer a pretty simple question. A few days ago, the station put out a very dramatic story about a police officer’s seeming brush with death. The headline was: “‘I knew I was dying’: How 5 rounds of Narcan possibly saved KCK police officer’s life.” The “possibly” is pretty important there, because in reality, an overdose would’ve been stopped by one round of Narcan, and a fentanyl overdose is exceedingly unlikely to occur from incidental physical touch. If that was how it worked, that is how users would ingest it, and first responders suffering from effects of exposure would stop breathing, not get short of breath. This is all pretty basic stuff that ER doctors and nurses and medical experts of various stripes attempted to share in the responses to KCTV5’s official account and the account of the lead reporter of the story, to no avail.

In response to the blowback to the story, the station added an editor’s note. Oddly, the clarification did not address a single one of the actual expertise-based criticisms of the story. Instead, it quoted the police (again) and the Drug Enforcement Administration, a federal law enforcement agency that was, not coincidentally or ironically, one of the original sources of the idea that a beat cop’s life is endangered in the mere presence of an opiate that hospital workers handle daily.

The news director at Channel 5 mostly likely knew they were wrong because that news director became snotty and hung up on Pareene.

Snotty is a always a good sign when talking to a journalist that they’ve been caught doing something lazy and/or stupid and they just can’t own up to that fact.

In all but the most extreme (and therefore unlikely) circumstances, real experts on fentanyl say that the same simple precautions that cops should be taking at every crime scene (gloving up is huge) would nearly always be enough to protect them from fentanyl.

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