This “In-Brief” instructional material from the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence presents the objectives, features, effective policies and practices, and examples of field drug testing programs (FDTPs).
Background material notes that cannabis/THC, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin have been the most frequently identified illegal drugs identified by U.S. crime laboratories each year since 2001; however, other drugs have emerged in more recent years, including synthetic cannabinoids and fentanyl-related compounds. Possession, sale, and trafficking of these substances can lead to criminal investigations and judicial proceedings, which require that these substances be confirmed by forensic laboratories. Gas chromatography (GC)-mass spectrometry (MS) and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) are examples of instrumentation used for confirmatory analysis. Recent advances in technology have enabled many of these screening techniques to be incorporated into portable instruments, making presumptive field testing a viable option for developing actionable results needed for arrests. In 2002, initial steps were taken to develop a field investigation drug officer (FIDO) program under the National Forensic Science Technology Center. The program tested and evaluated currently available drug-detection technologies and provided a training program and quality assurance guidance to assist stakeholders. The FIDO program provided information on personnel requirements, performance standards, evidence control, report preparation, and quality control. These requirements are similar to those for a laboratory operation but are more specific to law enforcement field drug testing. The current brief instructional aid describes FDTPs, outlines the objectives and history of the FIDO program, highlights two agencies that have implemented FDTPs, summarizes successful FDTP practices and policies, and provides examples and ideas for improving or implementing FDTPs. 3 figures and 10 references