Frontline police officers in New Zealand are trialling new real-time screening system that enables them to test people for drugs, including methamphetamine, using a handheld device.
In what is claimed to be a world-leading initiative for law enforcement, the police department is collaborating with ESR, a government Crown Research Institute that provides science services.
Near-instant results sent to mobile phone
The Lumi Drug Scan service enables beat officers to test for the most common drugs on the streets using the small device, and receive almost instant results sent to their mobile phone.
It can test for methamphetamine, MDMA and cocaine – three of the most common and harmful drugs on the New Zealand market.
Superintendent Mike Johnson, Acting Assistant Commissioner for Investigations says the devastating and ongoing impact that harmful drugs such as methamphetamine have on the community is well known.
Authorities are also aware that these drugs are often linked to organised criminal groups who prey on some of the most vulnerable members of society.
Improve the tools available to beat officers
“The current drug-testing processes have limitations and, as technology continuously improves, we need to look at ways to improve the tools available to frontline staff to ensure they are better informed at the scene, and therefore able to make the best possible decisions in real time,” Johnson said.
“It was a frontline officer who asked for a tool like the Lumi, as currently our officers rely on the circumstances presented to them, combined with their experience, to guide their decision-making.
“The Lumi service uses science to support our people at their jobs,” he stated.
Existing drug-testing system had limitations
According to the acting assistant commissioner, the current drug field-testing kits used by New Zealand Police has some disadvantages.
Other drug-testing machines currently on the market are extremely costly and lack portability, so it’s not possible for frontline staff to use them while out attending to incidents.
“One of the biggest advantages of the Lumi service is that, unlike the current field testing kit, the device can screen through packaging, meaning that our officers will not have to open the bags of drugs they seize to test them, and won’t be at risk of being exposed to the substances inside the package,” said Johnson.