Deadly fentanyl threatens users and law enforcement

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The opioid crisis is killing metro Detroiters every single day, and it's also becoming a matter of life and death for law enforcement.

The drug fentanyl is so strong -- it can be absorbed through the skin. Even tiny amounts are enough to cause an overdose.

"Rich people are dying; poor people are dying," Lt. Michael Shaw, Michigan State Police says. "White people are dying; black people are dying; and Hispanic people are dying. And that's what it is; people are dying of this stuff."

President Donald Trump has declared the opioid epidemic a "national emergency" and on Tuesday, Gov. Rick Snyder announced a new team to address the issue here in Michigan: the Council on Opioid and Prescription Drug Enforcement, or COPE.

"Before, law enforcement would try to arrest people and that's how you would deal with the drug problem," Shaw said. "But we all know that's not how it works."

Michigan State Police in Taylor say they battle the epidemic daily, and carry Narcan with them in case they're exposed.

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"All of our drug units carry it with them," said Lt. Michael Shaw. "We've actually changed our policy starting last year where we don't field test any suspected fentanyl anymore. We actually contain it, put it into a package, and send it up to the lab."

Lt. Charles Barker says a Level C protective suit protects them from drugs like heroin laced with fentanyl.

"There's no external gloves attached to it," he said. "We put on a pair of inner gloves and a pair of outer gloves and we used chemical tape over the sleeves."

Barker says even a small amount of fentanyl can be deadly.

"If you have 100 grains of sugar on the table fentanyl can be dangerous in three to four micrograms - which is three to four crystals of sugar," he says.

As it is grounded up, it can also become light, and airborne. When it comes to battling meth labs, Barker says a Level B suit, protects them from flash fires.

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"The fire department is going to be on scene and they are going to hose you down and you're going to be out of danger at that point," he said.

And the highest level suit is A.

"This is when you have an issue with oxygen level," Barker said.

The Level A suit is used when they deal with dangerous drugs like DMT, LSD, and PCP completely protected from head to toe.

The chair of COPE, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, says that "the opioid epidemic is destroying lives and families every day," these guys, who see it first hand, and say it's something no one is immune to.

"One shot and you're done," Shaw said. "It could be the one that kills you right there on the spot. This is problem for us and other law enforcement."