Reynolds County Missouri Sheriff’s office is located in the northwestern portion of the Ozark Foothills Region and serves a population of approximately 6,700 with 811 square miles of land. The office operates a 16 bed jail, provides court security, paper service, and law enforcement services for the county. Since January 2009, Sheriff Tom Volner has served as the elected Sheriff of the county.
In addition to the citizens of Reynolds County, the Sheriff’s office is responsible for the safety of the large number of tourists which come to Reynolds County each year. Typically during the warmer season, tourists come to Reynolds County to enjoy a wide variety of recreational areas, including Clearwater Lake and Johnson’s Shut-Ins on the scenic Black River.
As part of his duties in protecting the citizens of Reynolds County, Sheriff Volner is required to prepare himself and his deputies with the knowledge and tools to combat the manufacturing and use of illicit drugs.
The Challenge: Having a means to quickly identify the drugs found and allow the Sheriff’s office to make an arrest immediately before the suspect has the chance to leave the area.
The Goal: Have a tool which provides fast and accurate information on both unknown pills and powders found on a scene.
The Process: When an unknown pill or powder is found, law enforcement has to be able to identify the substance. Tom Volner, Sheriff of Reynolds County, Missouri explains, “There is a need to be sure we have an illicit substance. We need proof in order to hold a suspect.” When a suspect is apprehended, there is a short period of time to hold them and gather the evidence to charge them. Before a suspect can be charged, there must be evidence that the drugs on hand are illicit.
Traditional Methods: The need to identify both unknown pills and powders has required two methods in the past. The old-style method used to identify prescription pills is the desk reference for pills. Says Volner, “We would have to flip through several pages to find the pill that was a visual match.” To identify the pill, the officer had to look for a pill that looked like a match to the pill on hand.
When an unknown powder or solid was found, a chemical kit was used to identify the substance. With a chemical kit, users needed to have an idea of what the substance was in order to choose the correct color test because each vial contains a different chemical used to identify a specific drug. In addition, with a chemical kit, it is necessary to use up part of the sample because testing
the sample with chemicals destroys that part of the substance.
Using the MFL-3000 to identify samples allowed for one tool to be used for both unknown pills and powders. Using Raman spectroscopy technology, the MFL-3000 captures a spectra of the substance. The spectra is compared to an extensive library of illicit substances to identify the unknown drug. Unlike the desk reference for pills, the officer types in the description of the pill into the
MFL-3000. The MFL-3000 will then automatically search the drug library to find a match. In addition to providing a match based on the description, the MFL-3000 also completes a chemical analysis to verify the composition of the pill and present an accurate identification of the specific prescription drug.
To use the MFL-3000 for an unknown powder, the officer simply places a sample of the powder on the analysis window, selects analyze, and the spectrometer captures a spectra of the powder and matches it against a large illicit database. There is no need to guess what the substance is since the MFL-3000 provides printable reports of results to attach to court cases.
The MFL-3000 determines what type of illicit drug is found without destroying any of the evidence. There is no need to mix the substance with a chemical. “When you have a white powder you do not always select the correct chemical kit which wastes the test. We do not have to worry about that with the MFL-3000” says Volner. “The MFL-3000 is great for small samples, with the NIK kit we are unable to test the small samples because we will destroy all of our evidence” Volner expands, “In addition to identifying the illicit, the MFL custom library allows you to capture the things people
use to manufacture their drugs”. The MFL-3000 captures this information with each sample analyzed.
“The MFL does not destroy the evidence so we can get evidence on a small sample and increase our ability to prosecute to the full extent.” — Tom Volner, Reynolds County Sheriff
For years, law enforcement has had to rely on using the drug desk reference to identify unknown pills and using the chemical kits to identify the unknown powders. With the MFL-3000, The Reynolds County Sheriff’s office has automated the process for the identification of both pills and powders. Volner expands, “We needed a good method to identify all drugs, the MFL-3000 is compact, has good results, and is easy to use.” “The main challenge is to get away from the lab taking so long.” says Volner “We can’t file charges until we get the lab information back”. Volner continues, “When we
have to wait on the lab, often the defendant has left the area and we cannot prosecute.”
Bottom line: the MFL-3000 is a great option for accurately identifying both unknown pills and powders so criminals can be instantly charged and prosecuted.