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Drug Field Tests Reduce Lab Backlog

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2009
2 pages
This paper describes Utah's Field Investigation Drug Officer (FIDO) program, which trains certified officers to identify in the field the most commonly encountered illicit drugs, i.e., marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin.
These preliminary, or presumptive, tests can be used to close a case by plea agreement. If a case goes to trial, the presumptive field tests are sent to the laboratory for followup confirmation analysis. This reduces the number of samples submitted to the crime lab for analysis, thereby reducing the backlog. The FIDO program includes lesson plans, class outlines, class lecture, practical exercises, written exams, and references. Class topics address safety considerations, evidence control, legal considerations, substance overview, field testing procedure, report writing, and courtroom testimony. The Utah Bureau of Forensic Services (BFS) developed its own drug test kit rather than use a commercial kit. The BFS kit includes a metal spatula, disposable spot plates, methanol for cleaning and rinsing drug paraphernalia, and a CD that contains all training content. The kit has the capacity to test approximately 100 times more drug submission samples than commercial test kits. The FIDO program was developed by the National Forensic Science Technology Center with funding from the National Institute of Justice. Based on a program operated by the Phoenix Police Department (Arizona), FIDO provides training materials to agencies, who can then tailor the training to their specific needs. Utah BFS was a pilot site for the program.